|Art Form||Color lithograph|
|Keywords||Drug Addiction, History of Medicine|
|Summary||This striking painting seems to embody the "mania" of the morphine addict--the wild hair (particularly the unnatural upward curve of several strands); the brilliant color; the reckless glimpse of stocking; and the mixed sense of urgency and pain in the face of the young woman as she injects the drug into her thigh. The painting is a "close-up" of this desperate figure--the viewer is not offered any safe distance from her image.|
With her bare arms and flash of stocking, this young morphine addict is reminiscent of a can-can girl. What might be most compelling for students of medicine (or human behavior) is the expression on the woman's face. This is no "casual" or "social" drug user, but a true addict who desperately needs her fix. Morphine was then a drug used by physicians, as it is today, as a "controlled substance."
One historical note: the medical syringe was developed in the mid-19th century (this painting was made in 1897). The syringe both improved medical care (particularly on the battlefields of the American Civil War) and promoted a new kind of addiction, addiction to intravenous drugs. Both the medical benefits and the social problems associated with the availability of syringes continue today.
|Location of Original||Philadelphia Museum of Art, SmithKline Beecham Corporation Fund for the Arts Medica Collection|
|Alternate Source||A Treasury of Art and Literature, eds. Ann G. Carmichael & Richard Ratzan, New York: Hugh Lauter Levin (1991), p. 283.|
|Miscellaneous||This lithograph was an illustration from L'Album des Peintres Graveurs by Ambroise Vollard.|
|Annotated by||Dittrich, Lisa R.|
|Date of Entry||02/26/99|