The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Despite many romantic notions to the contrary, illness hardly causes
artistic genius. On the other hand, in some cases at least, it seems to be
the flint that ignites the spark of that genius. Such might seem to apply
in the case of Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Trained as a lawyer, he began tinkering
with colors in his 20s during a prolonged convalescence from appendicitis;
the result, much against his father's wishes, was a law clerk turned art student.
How much law lost, we cannot know; art, on the other hand, gained one of the
two greatest artists of the 20th century (the other being Picasso). Fifty
years later, in an eerie symmetry, Matisse was again—and for the remaining
13 years of his life—confined to bed or wheelchair because of complications
following intestinal surgery. Unable to paint, he took to drawing and then
to the brilliant paper cutouts that have become his signature.
Southgate MT. Ivy in Flower. JAMA. 2001;285(5):503. doi:10.1001/jama.285.5.503