Gustav Klimt - Old Man on Death Bed (1899)


“In the past, important people were often shown surrounded by a lot of people on their deathbed –those who were less grand died alone,” says Codognato. He points to the 19th-Century tradition of painting the deceased just before burial. “This ‘final portrait’ – death mask, painting or drawing – was intended to remain within the close circle of family or friends yet, in the case of celebrities, could be circulated extensively and publicly.” It remained in fashion with the advent of photography – “it was the last possible way to remember what they looked like,” says Codognato, offering Man Ray´s 1922 photo portrait of Marcel Proust as an example. Yet “today, when we document every moment of our lives in photography, it’s unlikely that we would photograph one of our relatives on their deathbed – we prefer to remember them alive and in much happier situations.”
BBC - The Bed in Art History: Between the Sheets