The 8 Most Tragic Deaths in Art

Death paralyzes even the bravest souls. A person's last breath makes us question our own end, and we understand that immortality is only possible by living in the memory of others. 
Art is precisely this: it is the embodiment of finality and death. An artistic movement fades and gives way to another. This cycle has nourished the avant-garde art, and now we live in a world of ephemeral art, where works extinguish the moment they are created.  

Death leaves us hollow, and we mourn the passing of the artists whose works make us feel more alive than ever. Art can fill up this emptiness because the works of the great masters endure to remind us of their genius and passion. 
Artists are immortal, and now they are everywhere thanks to the repetition of images that showcase their work. 

Alberto Durero

Durero's passion had always been the anatomy and the drawing of animals. An amateur biologist or zoologist, he always captured the discovery of new species on paper. In Gante, Belgium, he received word that a whale had been marooned in the coast. On his way there he fell ill, possibly from malaria, and his health deteriorated so rapidly that in April 6, 1528 he passed away. 

Michelangelo Corsi da Caravaggio

The cause of Caravaggio's death is an enigma no one has been able to uncover. Even after four hundred years since his passing, researchers are still not certain they hold the remains of, perhaps, the best painter of all time. Caravaggio was hot tempered and an unquestioned genius who had to flee several places for starting fights at the slightest provocation. In 1606, he escaped prison, and on his way to Rome he passed away. There are many theories surrounding his death. One suggests he was murdered for religious reasons, another that he collapsed on a deserted beach while suffering malaria, and the most recent hypothesis states that he had been weakened by syphilis and on his way to Rome to receive a Papal pardon, he died of heatstroke. 

 Frida Kahlo

In the last five years of her life, she was hospitalized several times. In 1950 she underwent seven operations and her leg was amputated. Four years later, she collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Rumor has it that on April 9 she attempted to commit suicide. She was taken to the emergency room once again when she fell and stabbed herself with a knitting needle. In June she contracted pneumonia, and at the end of the month it appeared to have cleared up. On July 2 she travelled with Diego to Guatemala to participate in a protest against the US intervention, which was her last public appearance. When she came back home, the pneumonia worsened, and on July 13 she died. Some believe she committed suicide. Hundreds of people gathered in the palace of Bellas Artes as a tribute. 


Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh's last painting before his suicide is of a wheat field with crows. On July 27 he shot himself in the stomach among the wheat fields. He was taken to the hospital, and his brother Théo rushed to be at his side. Van Gogh couldn't resist the wound and died two days later. Days prior he had written a letter to Théo, which he had kept safe in his pocket, "Well, the truth is, we can only make our pictures speak... At a moment when things are very strained between dealers in pictures of dead artists, and living artists. Well, my own work, I am risking my life for it, and my reason has half foundered of it –that's all right."

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat could belong to the 27 club. He was an emblematic figure of the nineteen eighties and the only black artist of the time who was recognized and well positioned. Even if he only painted for seven years, his paintings are prodigious. He died in 1988 at the age of 27. This Haitian-American artist painted iconic works that drew him into a world of prestige and fame. He was close friends with Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol, and David Bowie. His girlfriend was Madonna. The price of fame was very steep, and in August 12, 1988, he was found dead in his apartment in NoHo, Manhattan after losing his battle with heroin. 

Amedeo Modigliani

Modigliani led a life filled with excesses; he was a drunkard, womanizer, and a drug addict. He died young, at the age of 35, due to tuberculous meningitis. A day later, his wife Jeanne Hébuterne was taken to her parents' home. Devastated, she threw herself out of a fifth-floor window, killing herself and her unborn child. She was eight months pregnant with their second child.  

Jackson Pollock

Pollock was an alcoholic, and his wife, unable to work, had to care for him and his needs. Their marriage became rocky and his health deteriorated. He began seeing other women, and in 1956 he stopped painting altogether. His wife moved to Paris to give him more space. That same year Pollock died in a car crash while driving under the influence of alcohol. One of the passengers, Edith Metzger, was also killed in the accident, while the other passenger, Ruth Kligman, an artist and Pollock's mistress, survived. 

Nahui Olin

Lonely and obsessed with her past, she would cover her face with white powder and wander around the city, selling her body for a few cents. Some other days she would sit outside and feed stray cats, which she would then adopt and take home. She died in the madness of pain and oblivion. 


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