In 1972, German artist Horst Janssen suffered a serious illness. Following his recovery, he was inspired to produce a series of etchings. Over one week, Janssen produced 27 self-portraits “which show approaching death in all stages of disintegration.” He entitled the series “Hanno’s Tod,” or “The Death of Hanno,” after the famous scene in Buddenbrooks in which the sensitive, artistic son of businessman Thomas Buddenbrook is struck by typhus and dies. The scene famously begins (in the John E. Woods translation), with the chilling words:
“Typhoid runs the following course.”
At which point, in an instant, the reader learns that Hanno will die. It is the second-to-last chapter, but essentially the end of the book and of the Buddenbrook family.
Janssen’s series is wonderful, beginning with a fairly straightforward portrait (here, which is the one that I have on my living-room wall) and concluding with something that looks like an exploding tree. I also have a book that includes all the portraits (actually, I count 36) and some commentary in German.
Here are some of Janssen’s works. Here’s more. He was incredibly prolific and most of his works are on paper, meaning that even though he’s in MOMA and the Tate and lots of other museums, his works are pretty affordable.