“I put my heart and my soul into my work and lost my mind in the process” – Vincent Van Gogh
The relationship between art and mental health has been an area of interest to many over the years. Mental Illness can have a major impact on a person’s creativity and how they choose to express themselves. Throughout the years many inspiring and famous works have been created by individuals who were suffering from illnesses that continue to plague us today, including schizophrenia, dementia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Though for many, art was used as a therapeutic process, as a release from the thoughts and realities of their lives.
Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
Van Gogh is one of the more famous painters to have been known to suffer from mental illness. It’s said that he suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder all leading to him famously cutting off his ear. Despite a lifetime of ridicule, Van Gogh continued to paint some of the most famous paintings to date. His piece ‘Starry Night’ was said to have been painted of the view from his window in the asylum he was in. In 1890, Van Gogh took his own life shortly after his 37th birthday.
“This is my ambition, which is founded less on anger than on love, founded more on serenity than on passion. It is true that I am often in the greatest misery, but still there is within me a calm, pure harmony and music. In the poorest huts, in the dirtiest corner, I see drawings and pictures. And with irresistible force my mind is drawn towards these things. Believe me that sometimes I laugh heartily because people suspect me of all kinds of malignity and absurdity, of which not a hair of my head is guilty — I, who am really no one but a friend of nature, of study, of work, and especially of people.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)
Painter of ‘The Scream’ was also said to have suffered from mental illness. From a young age the painter was exposed to some traumatic events, his mother and older sister died of tuberculosis before he turned 15, one of his younger sisters was diagnosed with schizophrenia and his father was suffered from depression. Then there was is breakdown in 1908 which lead to him being admitted to a mental health clinic in Denmark.
The inspiration for the painting ‘The Scream’ came from an evening walk he took when as the sun set, the sky began to turn red. He suffered from severe anxiety as he felt an “infinite scream” through nature.
“I can not get rid of my illnesses, for there is a lot in my art that exists only because of them,” – Edvard Munch
Francisco de Goya (1746 – 1828)
The work of this Spanish painter can be divided into 2 periods; the first being defined by portraits, cartoons and tapestries and the second period defined by the ‘Black paintings’ depicting scenes of violence and death. His deterioration in his mental health can be linked to his deafness at age 47. He suffered from hallucinations and delirium and his later works often depicted melancholy and suffering.