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The Cover
November 16, 2005

The Sick Patient

JAMA. 2005;294(19):2402. doi:10.1001/jama.294.19.2402

It was the woodcuts that first brought the Swiss-born French artist Félix Vallotton (1865-1925) to public attention in fin-de-siècle Paris. The ancient art had all but been forgotten and it was Vallotton who helped spark its revival. Even today, in spite of his other artistic talents, which included a superb draftsmanship, great ability at etching, some notable paintings, professional art criticism—even a novel—the woodcuts are considered his major work. They are praised for their simple forms, drawn from everyday life, and the clear division of black and white masses within the block. In a perhaps back-handed compliment, one commentator noted their “icy precision”; others noted “bitterness,” “alienation,” “loneliness”; on the other hand, it is agreed that he interjected a sharp wit into many of them. The style of Vallotton’s paintings does not stray far from that of the woodcuts. The Sick Patient (Hélène Châjatenay) (cover ), for example, displays some of the same characteristics of the woodcuts: a pronounced sense of order, almost to the point of coldness; relatively large areas of color, which are clearly demarcated from another; and a troubling distance between the two figures: though they are only steps away geographically, they are planets apart psychologically.

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