During the Spanish flu, existential paintings by Edward Munch and Egon Schiele

Andrea Kirsh concludes her series, "Art Following Epidemics" with a post about the Spanish Flu of 1918, its relation to Coronavirus, and related artworks- with specific focus on painters Edward Munch and Egon Schiele.

The influenza epidemic of 1918 known as the Spanish flu is the closest precedent in modern times to the corona virus. It killed more than fifty million people world wide and was unusual in affecting not only the elderly and young children, but also healthy adults in their prime. Edvard Munch caught the disease and made numerous self-portraits as he was recovering.

Painting of a man sitting in a chair wearing a long cloak looking towards the viewer.
Edward Munch “Self Portrait With Spanish Flu” (1919) oil/canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo
Oil painting of a man scrunched over in his seat, wearing a shirt and jacket in a studio
Edward Munch “Self Portrait With Spanish Flu” (1919) oil/canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo

He was one of the lucky ones. Egon Schiele drew his teacher, Gustav Klimt, on his deathbed – a victim of the Spanish flu. That year he also painted an imaginary scene of the family he anticipated, showing his wife sitting between his spread, crouching legs with their swaddled baby at her feet.

Painting of elongated nude figures sitting together, a female figure in the front seated with slumped posture, and a man behind her with his legs around her posing with an arm on his left leg.
Egon Schiele “The Family”(1918) oil/canvas, The Belvedere, Vienna

Edith was six months pregnant when she caught the Spanish flu, and Schiele drew her on her deathbed. He died three days later at the age of 28.

unfinished drawing of a woman with her hand on her head looking tired
Egon Schiele “Edith Schiele on her Deathbed” (1918) chalk on paper, Leopold Museum, Vienna