SPOTLIGHT: Vincent Van Gogh

Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.

– Vincent Van Gogh

I’ve mentioned before in this blog the possible link between creativity and bipolar disorder and the first person who comes to mind when thinking about this theory is Vincent Van Gogh.

Of course, there was no one “official” diagnosis given while Van Gogh was living. However, it is historically accepted the artist suffered from the disorder. In fact, World Bipolar Day is on March 30th because it is Van Gogh’s birthday.

According to The Van Gogh Gallery, his extreme enthusiasm combined with his amazingly excessive output suggested mania was a big fixture in Van Gogh’s life. But these periods of mania were also accompanied or followed by periods of depression.

A 2020 article in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders lays out the idea of Van Gogh having bipolar disorder based off of alleged rapid mood swings along with periods of both mania and depression. Van Gogh’s brother even said it was as if he was made up of two different personalities, “the one marvellously gifted, sensitive and gentle, and the other self-loving and unfeeling”.

Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853 in Holland. The son of a pastor, Van Gogh believed his true calling was to preach. It wasn’t until later he discovered his true passion as an artist.

Perhaps the most infamous moment in both Van Gogh’s personal life is the “ear incident”. In December 1888, the artist cut off one of his ears with a razor during part of a mental breakdown. He gave the severed ear to a cleaner at a local brothel and would spend the majority of the next two years in hospitals and asylums.

From Lilacs to The Starry Night, Van Gogh painted some of his most well-known masterpieces while hospitalized for his nervous temperament. The Starry Night was inspired by a view from one of Van Gogh’s rooms in an asylum. Most of the artist’s finest and well-known paintings were done in the last two years of his life.

Van Gogh’s death is shadowed in some mystery yet still is officially regarded as a suicide. He died on July 29, 1890 — two days after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. According to his brother, Vincent’s last words were, “The sadness will last forever.”

Van Gogh was not a critical or commercial success in his lifetime, having sold only one painting. He never wavered in his conviction as an artist, however, painting consistently, even in his darkest periods of life.

Even with a reputation of mental instability it was clear Van Gogh had true artistic strengths and creativity. And with a talent beyond measure, Van Gogh is considered to be one of the most influential artists in history.

Despite his mental illness, Van Gogh is credited with helping create the foundation of what we know as modern art.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog the possible link between creativity and bipolar disorder and first person who comes to mind when thinking about this theory is Vincent Van Gogh.

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