We all have experienced some variation of a heartbreak. It doesn't matter the reason, whether it's produced by the rejection of someone we care about, a betrayal, or even the loss of someone dear to us. The truth is that it produces a pain that runs through our body and pierces the most innocent part of our soul. We find ourselves gasping for fresh air, hoping to see a light or an escape exit.
While this pain only lives in our psyche, it can affect our entire body. It's not precisely a physical pain we can cure with medicine, bur rather a sickness of the soul that can be difficult to overcome. Some find an antidote in the comfort of their beloved ones, while others find shelter in their jobs and daily routines. Many resort to therapy, and others perhaps to art —the realm where emotions collide to create extraordinary pieces. After all, art depicts all human emotions, states, and experiences. Whether it's melancholy, solitude, happiness, greed, passions, or even the excruciating pain caused by heartbreak.
A broken heart is not exclusive to the realm of deception. The story of Hamlet and Ophelia is rife with controversy. Was her suicide driven by madness or betrayal, or both?
In this Pre-Raphaelite painting, we can see Ophelia's last gasp. Her face is calm, as if she were accepting her fate. Her heart has been broken, and the lush nature that surrounds her isn't enough to bring her back to life. Her soul is dead, so her body must follow suit.
Byblis —William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1884)
There are many versions of the Byblis myth, but Ovid's version is the most widely known. It tells the story of a nymph who falls in love with her brother Caunus. Convinced that there's nothing wrong with her love, she decides to confess her feelings. Upon learning of her forbidden attraction, Caunus runs away from her. Obsessed and heartbroken, Byblis follows him; unfortunately, because of the pain and her endless tears, she dies and becomes a spring that irrigates the land with her sorrow.
Napoleon’s Farewell to Josephine — Laslett John Pott (19th century)
Also called My Destiny and France Demand It, this painting by Laslett John Pott depicts the moment when Napoleon asked Josephine for a divorce. The reason? She was infertile and couldn't give him the heir he needed to secure his empire. Here, Josephine is totally devastated and based on the objects lying on the ground and body language, it's obvious she will never recover from such a cold-hearted decision.
Love and Pain - Edvard Munch (1895)
Belonging to a series that is known as Vampire, this painting shows a man being comforted by a woman. Munch's use of color shows this man in blue and grayish tones to represent his pain, while the woman is depicted in vibrant colors. Perhaps she is his salvation or a memory of the past he is trying to cling to.
Melancholy - Edgar Degas (1874)
Famous for his ballet paintings, in this particular piece Degas shows the pain of a woman who's lying on a couch. There are no records of who this woman was or what's the story behind her sorrow. Perhaps she's mourning the loss of a beloved one; maybe her heart was broken, or in my personal opinion, she was betrayed. The deep red tones convey her anger and anguish, and her furrowed brow perfectly reflects her pain. It may have been painted in 1800s, but it still resonates with today's audience.
Through these amazing artworks, we can see that, while the heart can be broken for many reasons, the pain is certainly the same. These characters experienced one of the most common and painful experiences in life: the disillusionment and sorrow of a broken heart. Artists have shown with the passing of time that art can be a catalyst where we can pour all our concerns and feelings. For instance, check how female sexuality is represented in these 10 works of art.