Cover image for The art of suicide
The art of suicide
Brown, Ron M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Reaktion Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
253 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N72.S8 B76 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Art of Suicide is a history of the visual representation of suicide from the ancient world to its decriminalization in the 20th century. After looking at instances of voluntary death in ancient Greece, Ron Brown discusses the contrast between the extraordinary absence of such events in early Christianity and the proliferation of images of biblical suicides in the late medieval era. He emphasizes how differing attitudes to suicide in the early modern world slowly merged, and pays particular attention to the one-time chasm between so-called heroic suicide and self-destruction as a "crying crime".

Brown tracks the changes surrounding the perception of suicide into the pivotal Romantic era, with its notions of the "man of feeling", ready to hurl himself into the abyss over a woman or an unfinishable poem. After the First World War, the meaning of death and attitudes towards suicide changed radically, and in time this led to its decriminalization. The 20th century in fact witnessed a growing ambivalence towards suicidal acts, which today are widely regarded either as expressions of a death-wish or as cries for help. Brown concludes with Warhol's picture of Marilyn Monroe and the videos taken by the notorious Dr Kevorkian.

Author Notes

Ron M. Brown is Teaching Fellow in the Faculty of Health and Environment at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

More desperate pursuits are illustrated in The Art of Suicide, a scholarly look at the depiction of self-murder in painting and other visual forms, from Rembrandt's Lucretia to the tawdry engravings in Victorian England's Illustrated Police News to the more abstract representations by Man Ray and Warhol. Studying the Didos and Judases and Ophelias depicted over the last two millennia, Ron M. Brown, a teaching fellow in the Faculty of Health and Environment at Leeds University in Britain, analyzes the competing cultural perceptions of, and moral questions regarding, suicide in the Western world, from the heroic suicides of antiquity to the 20th century's clinical cases. (Mar. 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 7
1 Representing Voluntary Death in Classical Antiquityp. 21
2 Self-killing from Late Antiquity to the Renaissancep. 49
3 Conflict and Change in Early Modern Europep. 88
4 An English Dance of Death?p. 124
5 Preserving Life and Punishing Deathp. 146
6 The Century of Destructionp. 194
Postscriptp. 215
Referencesp. 223
Select Bibliographyp. 241
Acknowledgementsp. 243
Photographic Acknowledgementsp. 245
Indexp. 247