Table of contents:
- 1. Zebra and parachute (Christopher Wood)
- 2. Nu Sur La Plage / Nude on the Beach (John William Godward)
- 3. Concert (Nicolas de Stael)
- 4. Death of James Dean (John Minton)
- 5. Untitled / Black on Gray (Mark Rothko)
- 6. Une Famille Dans La Desolation / Unhappy Family (Constance Meyer)
- 7. Ride with Death (Jean-Michel Basquiat)
- 8. Nude self-portrait with palette (Richard Gerstl)
- 9. Agony (Arshile Gorki)
- 10. Daubigny Garden (Vincent Van Gogh)
Many artists have died, leaving their final masterpiece unfinished. Even more unusual is the situation when the artist paints his last picture and then commits suicide. Some of these works clearly show the dark thoughts that overcome their creators, while others are strikingly serene and calm.
1. Zebra and parachute (Christopher Wood)
"Zebra and Parachute" was one of two paintings that Christopher Wood painted in Paris in the summer of 1930 (the second painting is "The Tiger and the Arc de Triomphe"). Both paintings depict a surreal image of an exotic animal against the backdrop of an artificial building. In the painting "Zebra and a Parachute" it is also easy to see a parachutist in the sky, who hangs on the dome as if he were dead. After leaving Paris for England in August 1930, Wood met his mother in Salisbury to show her his new works, including this painting. At that time, Wood developed paranoia due to opium, and in a desperate attempt to avoid his imaginary pursuer, Wood threw himself under the train on the day of his arrival.
2. Nu Sur La Plage / Nude on the Beach (John William Godward)
During his 40-year career, John Godward has often portrayed beautiful women in clothing. This style made him famous, because the artist was famous for the unique accuracy of depicting clothing on a moving person. The artist's family despised his career choices and even disowned him after Godward moved to Italy in 1912. In his old age, Godward began to paint far fewer pictures as his health deteriorated. His last famous paintings, "Contemplation" and "Nu Sur La Plage" (Nude on the Beach), were completed a few months before the artist's death. "Nu Sur La Plage" is especially unusual as it deviates Godward from his usual style of portraying women in pretty clothes. In December 1922, Godward committed suicide, writing in a suicide note that the world was not big enough for him and Picasso.
3. Concert (Nicolas de Stael)
Nicolas de Stael was a prolific French abstract painter. Over the course of a relatively short career, he created thousands of paintings and drawings. In the last five months of his life alone, he painted 147 paintings, the last of which ("Blue Nude Lying") was completed in 1955. In March of the same year, he committed suicide by jumping from a tall building in Antibes, and leaving the painting "Le Concert "unfinished. At that time, Nicolas was only 41 years old. This painting was supposed to be the largest in the artist's career (its dimensions were 6 x 3.5 meters). Shortly before his death, Nicolas wrote: "I am unable to complete my paintings"
4. Death of James Dean (John Minton)
The last work of artist and illustrator John Minton was incomplete when he committed suicide in January 1957. The unfinished painting depicts a wounded man surrounded by distraught spectators. The day before his death, Minton came to visit the artist Ruskin Spiru and said that the dying character in his painting reminds him of Hollywood actor James Dean, who died two years ago in a car accident at the age of only 24. Spear believes that James Dean personified the suffering of the younger generation for Minton. In fact, the real identity of the dying person in the picture remained a mystery.
5. Untitled / Black on Gray (Mark Rothko)
Mark Rothko's reputation as an abstract painter is largely due to his famous depictions of brightly colored rectangles. These works were praised by all critics for their masterful use of color, which evoked emotional reactions in people. But Rothko despised such praise and wanted to be appreciated as an artist, not as a colorist. Towards the end of Rothko's life, his paintings became not so bright and saturated, and his last work was an untitled painting, painted in black and gray, with a horizontal dividing line and a thin white border. By Rothko's own admission, this picture reflected his thoughts about death. After his divorce from his wife, he suffered from severe depression and soon committed suicide by cutting his veins in his New York studio in 1970.
6. Une Famille Dans La Desolation / Unhappy Family (Constance Meyer)
Constance Meyer committed suicide while working on the painting "Une Famille Dans La Desolation" ("Unhappy Family"). The painting was completed by Pierre-Paul Prudhon, her partner. Mayer and Prudhon met in 1803, when Prudhon was one of the most famous painters in France and Mayer was a young up-and-coming artist. Soon they began to live together, as well as paint together. Therefore, it is often difficult to say where the work of one artist ends and the work of another begins. They lived together for many years, but Prudhon refused to marry Constance. This left the woman depressed and she soon slit her throat with a razor.
7. Ride with Death (Jean-Michel Basquiat)
Jean-Michel Basquiat began his artistic career as a teenager as a graffiti artist in Manhattan, and began painting much later. His work quickly gained widespread recognition for its depth and composition, and Basquiat became widely known in the art world. Unfortunately, the artist became addicted to heroin and died of a speedball overdose (a mixture of heroin and cocaine) at the age of only 27. His last painting was Death Ride, which was completed in the months leading up to his 1988 suicide.
8. Nude self-portrait with palette (Richard Gerstl)
Richard Gerstl created his best work during his affair with Matilda, the wife of the famous composer Arnold Schoenberg. Gerstl painted naked himself and Matilda. After their romance came to light, the couple fled. Unfortunately for Gerstl, Matilda eventually left her and returned to Schoenberg "for the sake of the children." Maddened by this, Gerstl committed suicide in November 1908 at the age of only 25, stabbing himself in the chest and hanging himself in his new studio, surrounded by his paintings. His last work was Self-Portrait with a Palette, completed in September 1908.
9. Agony (Arshile Gorki)
Arshile Gorky is an abstract expressionist who worked mainly with simple shapes and colors. During the two years before his death, Gorky experienced many sad and tragic events. In 1946, a fire broke out in his workshop, during which many of his best paintings were burned to the ground. Within a few weeks after that, Gorky's health deteriorated significantly and he was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly thereafter, the artist discovered that his wife Agnes was cheating on him with another artist. The couple divorced, and two children remained with Agnes. In 1947, Gorky painted several paintings, including "Agony", so it is difficult to say which of the paintings is the last. In 1948, Gorky's streak of bad luck ended when he broke his neck in a car accident, as a result of which his hands were paralyzed. Unable to write any further, he committed suicide a month later in his studio.
10. Daubigny Garden (Vincent Van Gogh)
The painting "Wheatfield with Crows" is often mistakenly considered the last work of Vincent van Gogh. While this is, of course, one of his last paintings, a scientific analysis of the artist's letters reveals that Wheatfield with Crows was completed two weeks before his suicide in July 1890, which means that Van Gogh's actual last painting is The Garden of Daubigny ". On the morning of July 27, 1890, Van Gogh went for a walk to paint outdoors. While walking, he shot himself in the chest and died 2 days later in the hospital at the age of 37.