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Art and Images in Psychiatry
September 2014

Images of Modern EvilAlbert Tucker

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Developmental Neuropsychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(9):982-983. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2753

The world has taken on a thickness of vulgarity that raises a spiritual man’s contempt to violence of a passion. But there are happy hides so thick that poison itself cannot penetrate them.

Charles Baudelaire, preface to Flowers of Evil1(pXII,XIII)

Melbourne artist Albert Tucker was emotionally traumatized by his service in the Australian Army in 1942. Leading psychiatrist Reginald Ellery had found him psychologically unfit for service during the first call to duty. But when the war with Japan spread to the Pacific, Tucker was conscripted and assigned as an artist to illustrate the injuries of soldiers awaiting plastic surgery at the Heidelberg Military Hospital in Melbourne. On a daily basis, he was faced with depicting the damaged faces and bodies of injured soldiers. One soldier’s nose was amputated at its base, leaving him with a flattened face and nasal orifices that were constantly draining. This experience left an indelible impression on Tucker, who later regularly reproduced the motif of the severed nose (ie, broad piglike or nearly absent noses) in his images of modern evil.

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