Man Eating His Heart or Secret Sorrow, ca. 1900
After Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller’s exposure to the works of Auguste Rodin at the Paris Exposition Universelle, we can see her departure from the Beaux-Arts traditional style of idealized or respectable subjects in her work Man Eating His Heart or Secret Sorrow. Instead of focusing on traditional or respectable subjects she uses this piece to contemplate and express the universal themes of human sufferings and inward states of mind. Fuller disregards the finely articulated details of the Beaux Arts tradition to create a piece that, although we can tell it is a male hunched in on himself opening his mouth to eat something, still conveys details about him that remain unclear such as his eyes and what he is holding. The work is based on the poem "In the Desert" by Stephen Crane and features a creature eating his own heart. Fuller's work changes the creature to a human, which likens the creature in the poem to humans. The title Man Eating His Heart or Secret Sorrow indicates that Fuller is dealing with the theme of human suffering, but the private nature of sorrow draws us into the man's mental state, making us question how we as humans deal with sorrow. While sorrow is undoubtedly a horrible and sometimes painful mental state to be in, Fuller's work implies that it can be used to make us stronger individuals. When we deal with our sorrows we are like the man eating his own heart in that we use our sufferings as motivation to be better people and to do better things. Fuller's work can be seen as a physical representation of how our sufferings shape us as humans.
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller