An article from Wellcome Collection about several artists’ and writers’ responses to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918
Honors Department Director Jeremy Cohan recently sent along a link to an article by Allison C Meier at the Wellcome Collection on the ways in which a handful of modern artists and writers (including Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch, Virginia Woolf, and Katherine Anne Porter) responded to their own experiences and losses during and after the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918. Meier points out that there are relatively few surviving memorials of that earlier pandemic, and the works that these people made offer a rare and sometimes haunting glimpse of the period:
Despite the ravages on the global population by the Spanish flu – so called not because of its origins but due to Spain’s neutrality in the war, allowing for free reporting on its spread – there are few cultural expressions that tackle this loss. There are countless memorials to the dead of World War I, but more perished in this pandemic. As Laura Spinney wrote in the 2017 ‘Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World’, there “is no cenotaph, no monument in London, Moscow, or Washington, DC. The Spanish flu is remembered personally, not collectively”.