The art of processing our collective grief

Courtesy of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

We have heard the phrase “grim milestone” so often in the past year that it now falls into the realm of journalistic cliché. Monday’s news that the US has surpassed half a million Covid-19 deaths should not, however, be any less poignant for its morbid familiarity. These are the moments in which individual and shared grief intersect. But as we struggle to take stock of societies’ losses, what does coming to terms with grief, as a culture, really look like?

Whether portraying others’ grief or revealing their own, artists are often able tap into something universal. One need not be Christian to feel Mary’s anguish in Renaissance depictions of Christ’s crucifixion; one need not have lived through the Spanish Civil War to feel the harrowing abyss at the heart of Picasso’s “Guernica” (pictured above). The torment of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is clear to all.

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