Humans are naturally social and interactive beings who fundamentally need social contact. During a certain period of their lives, humans are faced with feelings of isolation due to the lack of social connectedness. The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of isolation and to understand how the Man in Blue exhibits a clear understanding of this concept. This paper overviews an artist named Francis Bacon who paints his experiences with depression allowing others to envision his struggle with isolation and the decline of his mental health.
Social contact has long been recognized as a fundamental human need; the concept of isolation is a state in which an individual negatively experiences a physical or emotional separation (Gilmartin, Grota, & Sousa, 2013). There are three attributes of human isolation: confinement, sensory deprivation, and social isolation. When an individual experiences a combination of these attributes, it may result in negative consequences (Gilmartin, Grota, & Sousa, 2013).
In Francis Bacon’s painting the Man in Blue, there is an unidentified male figure that appears to be screaming with his mouth wide open; the Man in Blue is screened from chalky darkness surrounding a cage and a blue drawn curtain (Tate, 1970). The cage in the background represents the limitation of physical space, restraints, and feelings of alienation. In many circumstances, cages are used for confinement; they are used for restricting a person’s physical movement. In comparison to health care, confinement is seen to be used for patients in isolation precautions, where they are limited from their normal social interactions (Gilmartin, Grota, & Sousa, 2013). The next symbol, the blue curtain symbolizes sensory deprivation, which is defined as the deliberate reduction or removal of one or more human stimuli. (Gilmartin, Grota, & Sousa, 2013). From conception to death, the human body uses sensory organs to learn about the environment in which they live. The drawn curtain implies a complete restriction of natural sounds, vision, and somatic senses of the individual. Stimulation of these organs allows for their development as well as the contribution of the overall well being of the individual, thus leading to hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, anxiety, and depression (Gilmartin, Grota, & Sousa, 2013). This is also portrayed in the painting, where the individual is screaming showing signs of distress. Furthermore, in the painting, the man is sitting alone in the dark with no other activities in the background, this illustrates social isolation. Social isolation is characterized as the absence of social interactions, engagement with community activities, and social support (Gilmartin, Grota, & Sousa, 2013). The role of a nurse is to have a client- nurse therapeutic care, which includes monitoring the tendency, length, and content of interactions depending on patient’s needs (“Sensory deprivation”, 2014). As a nurse, preventing isolation is determined by the lack of social connectedness in a person’s life. Social connectedness is indicated as the feeling of caring and being cared for by others (O’Rourke & Sidani, 2017). From psychological theories to recent research, there is evidence that feeling connected and social support helps maintain a healthy aspect of physical and mental health. Counseling patients on increasing social connection and encouraging friends has the potential to cause healing to patients.
All in all, isolation as portrayed in Francis Bacon’s painting is a complex behavior that affects an individual’s biopsychosocial domain. Throughout the three attributes of human isolation, an individual can suffer serious mental and physical illnesses. Nurses and healthcare providers often lack time to address more than just physical health complaints. It is beneficial to ask about the patient’s social encounters and to allow for any modification in their individualized care.
- Bacon, F. (Painter). (1954). Man in Blue. [oil on canvas]. Retrieved from https://www.francis-bacon.com/artworks/paintings/man-blue-v
- Gilmartin, H.M, Grota, P.G., & Sousa, K. (2013). Isolation: A concept analysis. Nursing Forum, 48(1), 54-6
- O’Rourke, H., & Sidani, S. (2017). Definition, determinants, and outcomes of social connectedness for older adults: A scoping review. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 43(7), 43-52
- Silver Oaks College of Nursing. (2014). Sensory deprivation. Retrieved October 20, 2019, from https://www.slideshare.net/atullawrence1/sensory-deprivation-30969519.
- Tate. (1970). ‘Study for a Portrait’, Francis Bacon, 1952. Retrieved October 20, 2019, from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bacon-study-for-a-portrait-t12616.