Tor­tured Artists

How the work of eight artists re­vealed a much more per­sonal truth…

All About History - - CONTENTS - Writ­ten by Philippa Grafton

Eight trou­bled tal­ents who proved that ge­nius has its price

Im­pov­er­ished, in­spired, in­sane: the im­age of a tor­tured artist is of­ten a ro­man­tic one. More of­ten than not, the cel­e­brated Vin­cent van Gogh tops the charts of th­ese trou­bled souls.

A pen­ni­less pain­ter haunted by me­lan­choly and de­pres­sion whose rep­u­ta­tion as one of the great­est modern artists only truly blos­somed af­ter his sui­cide, van Gogh – the man – seemed like the very pic­ture of pity.

But de­pres­sion does not dis­crim­i­nate. Men­tal well­be­ing tran­scended – as it con­tin­ues to tran­scend to­day – wealth and sta­tus. For ev­ery strug­gling artist who fought his own de­mons there ex­isted an­other who suf­fered while the com­mis­sions rolled in. Van Gogh might be the archetype of to­day’s vi­sion of a tor­tured ge­nius, but even court painters like Goya and ‘Re­nais­sance men’ like Michelan­gelo faced hard­ships in men­tal health.

Th­ese artists, how­ever, aren’t to be pitied – in many cases, th­ese cre­ative ge­niuses ac­knowl­edged the drive and in­spi­ra­tion that they gleaned from their per­sonal strug­gles, par­tic­u­larly van Gogh.

In­deed, Richard Dadd, a Vic­to­rian pain­ter who spent his life in asy­lums, was lib­er­ated cre­atively by life locked up in an asy­lum.

Van Gogh’s Ward in the Hos­pi­tal in Ar­les where he spent time in an asy­lum

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