A Swiss Oncologist shares six paintings by the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2002; 20:7: 1948-50).
Hodler painted his wife before, during, and after her illness. He documented her wasting and eventual extinction without mercy and yet with intense sympathy. He created a series of paintings that force the viewer to face the process of dying.
- Figure 1, the youth. This portrait in shades of red shows her as a beautiful, healthy young woman.
- Figure 2, the illness. His wife is a bedridden patient.
- Figure 3, the exhaustion. Now, the eyes have closed. The head is hanging loose off the neck. The patient is sleeping. Her traits are becoming sharper, angular, bony.
- Figure 4, the pain. The dying patient is in the last days of her life. This
- gruesome sketch shows her tormented face; her head has fallen deep into the pillow.
- Figure 5, the agony. One day before her death, the patient has lost consciousness. The mouth is wide open; one imagines hearing a loud rattle.
- Figure 6, 1 day after death.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.