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The Cover
February 7, 2001

Ivy in Flower

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(5):503. doi:10.1001/jama.285.5.503

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.