Grasset, Eugene-Samuel

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Color lithograph

Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa
  • Date of entry: Feb-26-1999
  • Last revised: Apr-26-2012


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.


This lithograph was an illustration from L'Album des Peintres Graveurs by Ambroise Vollard.

Primary Source

A Treasury of Art and Literature, eds. Ann G. Carmichael & Richard Ratzan, New York: Hugh Lauter Levin (1991), p. 283.