Art and Images in Psychiatry
July 07, 2008

Le Suicide

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Copyright 2008 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2008

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(7):744. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.65.7.744

But what a scourge to society is a realist painter! To him nothing is sacred! Manet tramples underfoot the most sacred ties. TheArtist's Parents must have more than once cursed the day when a brush was placed in the hands of this merciless portraitist.—Léon Lagrange in La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris1(p9)

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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