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Art and Suicide from the 12th Century to the 21st Century: William Blake, Frida Kalho, Pablo Picasso

James C. Harris, M.D.
Director, Developmental Neuropsychology Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Pediatrics and Mental Hygiene Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Art and Images Editor, Archives of General Psychiatry

Dr. James Harris takes a unique approach to the study of suicide as he examines historical art that depicts the subject. He begins with paintings of suicide during antiquity when it was viewed as a heroic episode to protect one’s honor, often the case during times of Greek wars. During biblical times suicide was seen as an immoral crime that led to condemnation. Dr. Harris presents a few famous paintings, including the work of Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso, to offer their artistic views of suicide. He stresses that artists have shown little difference in their motives and means for suicide, but have shown difference in their attitudes towards the subject.