ⓘ The Sick Child

The Sick Child

ⓘ The Sick Child

The Sick Child is the title given to a group of six paintings and a number of lithographs, drypoints and etchings completed by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch between 1885 and 1926. All record a moment before the death of his older sister Johanne Sophie from tuberculosis at 15. Munch returned to this deeply traumatic event repeatedly in his art, over six completed oil paintings and many studies in various media, over a period of more than 40 years. In the works, Sophie is typically shown on her deathbed accompanied by a dark-haired, grieving woman assumed to be her aunt Karen, the studies often show her in a cropped head shot. In all the painted versions Sophie is sitting in a chair, obviously suffering from pain, propped by a large white pillow, looking towards an ominous curtain likely intended as a symbol of death. She is shown with a haunted expression, clutching hands with a grief-stricken older woman who seems to want to comfort her but whose head is bowed as if she cannot bear to look the younger girl in the eye.

Throughout his career, Munch often returned and created several versions of the paintings. A sick child was for Munch - who nearly died from tuberculosis himself as a child - that means to record his feelings of despair and guilt that he was the one to survive and confront his feelings of loss for his late sister. He became obsessed with the image, and in the following decades he created many variants in different formats. Six paintings were executed for more than 40 years, using a number of different models.

The number was described as "a vivid study of the destruction of the degenerative diseases". All the paintings and many of the other works considered essential for childrens art creativity. In 1896 lithograph in black, yellow and red were sold in 2001, at Sothebys for $250.000.

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