hunger artist

Definition

Theater

  • A sideshow performer who fasted publicly. Such acts were popularfrom the late 19th century until after World War II.

    In 1880 Dr Henry Tanner, an American, fasted for 40 days towin a bet. Giacomo Succi was a popular hunger artist in Italy at theturn of the century, but the record of 47 days without food was establishedin 1926 by Ventego. The act was particularly popular in Germany betweenthe wars but began to lose its appeal when political protesters beganfasting in India and elsewhere. The problem of world hunger seemsfinally to have turned people against the use of starvation as a sourceof entertainment. In 2003 controversy and criticism attended the fastof the American illusionist David Blaine, who refused food for 44days while exhibiting himself in a perspex capsule beside the Thamesin London.

    Related to the hunger artist was the sideshow performer billedas a living skeleton. In the 1820s the French living skeletonClaude Seurat kept thin by consuming a little wine and one roll eachday; his skeleton stood clearly out and his heart could be seen beating.

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