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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Christina’s World

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 21 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2142
  1. Desmond O’Neill, consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine, Dublin
  1. doneill{at}

It is among the most iconic images of American art. A young woman lies in the grass, raised on her arms in a pose of vigilant expectancy: across parched undulating fields lie a farmhouse and outhouses. Viewed across the treeless landscape, the figure and her unusual pose radiate vulnerability against this vast openness (

This is not purely happenstance. Christina Olson (1893-1968) had a progressive neurological illness that led to increasing immobility. She had chosen to crawl around the farm and grounds shown in the painting for many …

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