Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Le Suicide

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(7):744. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.65.7.744.
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On April 12, 1866, at his home at 7 rue Turgot, Jules Holtzapfel committed suicide, shooting himself in the head. In his published suicide note, the Austrian painter wrote: “The members of the [Salon] jury have rejected me. I therefore have no talent. . . . I must die!”2(pp186-187)For artists in France, their professional lives depended on the annual Salon, a juried, government-sponsored art exhibition. The inclusion of a painting provided an official stamp of approval and facilitated sales and commissions; exclusion from the Salon was professional death. With no explanation or reason, a red R (“rejected”) was stamped on the back of canvases not chosen. Holtzapfel had exhibited in every Salon for the previous decade and could not bear this humiliation.

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Édouard Manet (1832-1883), French. Le Suicide, c 1877-1881. Oil on canvas, 38 × 46 cm. Foundation E. G. Buehrle Collection, Zurich, Switzerland. Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York, New York.

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Édouard Manet (1832-1883), French. Portrait of M and Mme Auguste Manet, 1860. Oil on canvas, 111.5 × 91 cm. Museé d’Orsay, Paris, France (http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections). Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

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