Vincent Van Gogh as the Greatest Dutch Painter

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Certain forms of mental illness have a strong link to creativity, to the perception of color and shape, and to the outlook one has on the contemporary world. Individuals suffering from mental illness display a scope on the world in a original way, blah blah describes this as literally seeing what others cannot. Mental illness is clearly not necessary for creativity or success – and certainly has serious negative consequences for the sufferer’s daily existence – but so many highly acclaimed creative artists have excelled in their field despite their illness, that it has spawned a familiar cliche’. The cliche’ of the ‘tortured artist’ has in turn brought a common presumption that creatively gifted people are more likely to suffer from mental illness than others. This idea of a substantial connection between genius and madness is said by blah blah to have dated back to the period of Aristotle. Blah blah

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Academics have long suspected a link between creativity and mental illness. Vincent Van Gogh is a prototypical example of this link. The mental state of Vincent Van Gogh contributed to his creative genius, to his success, and ultimately to his downfall as an artist.

The early life of Vincent Van Gogh is a small factor adding to the explanation of his tragic downfall. Van Gogh father, Theodorus Van Gogh, was a minister and his mother, Cornelia Van Gogh, raised him and his six siblings in poverty. His family’s financial struggles forced him to abandon school and find work at his uncle’s art dealership. from a young age Van Gogh had a connection to painting, but no unusual artistic ability is said to have been apparent during his childhood blah blah. At age 20, Van Gogh moved to London, where he continued to dedicate himself to working in another art dealership. Shortly after his transfer Van Gogh abruptly neglected his work and fell into a deep period of profound depression, marking the first known account of his insanity. One common explanation for this sudden abandonment, written about in Van Gogh: The Life, by Gregory Smith and Steven Naifeh, says after his move to london Van Gogh fell in love with the daughter of his landlord, Eugenie Loyer, and the refusal of his wedding proposal sparked his crazed solitude. This lead at first to a renewed devotion to religion, but turned to a seemingly unhealthy obsession with devoting himself to God. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, Van Gogh volunteered as a pastor in a poor Belgian town. Van Gogh empathized with the poor, spending most of his days in their company, understanding from intimate personal experience the hardships of their poverty. Unfortunately, Church authorities became displeased with him for interpreting Christian teachings too literally blah blah. Feeling failed, Van Gogh left for France, and there began his career as an artist.

In France, Van Gogh lived in the home of his brother Theo, who supported him financially. There, Van Gogh began painting side-by-side with fellow artist and companion Paul Gauguin. Due to his unstable behavior, Vincent became a burdensome associate. In a letter written to his sister, Theo wrote, “It seems as if he were two persons: one, marvelously gifted, tender and refined, the other, egotistic and hard hearted. They present themselves in turns, so that one hears him talk first in one way, then in the other, and always with arguments on both sides. It is a pity that he is his own enemy, for he makes life hard not only for others but also for himself. The description of Van Gogh’s customs described by his brother are likely to be symptoms from a manic depressive episode, blah blah states episodes can be followed by “Making odd decisions on the spur of the moment, sometimes with disastrous consequences.”. One night while having an argument with Gauguin, Van Gogh threatened his friend with a blade, turned it on himself and cut off his left ear. After the fact, Van Gogh allegedly gifted his severed ear to a prostitute. Soon after returning from the hospital, Van Gogh painted a now famous self-portrait titled, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Shortly after the famous incident, Van Gogh self-admitted himself to the Saint-Paul Asylum. Van Gogh continued to paint during his time in Saint-Paul, since he believed painting was his only chance at regaining his sanity, “Art is to console those who are broken by life.”. Van Gogh’s tormented mind allowed him to produce paintings expressing his ingenious outlook on the world that is otherwise unachievable by any other, not to mention the ones truly unproducible; a self-portrait portraying a self severed ear. Van Gogh proclaims, “I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

The evidence left from Van Gogh’s mental health records today lead medical experts to consider many conditions from which he may have suffered. Those conditions include bipolar disorder, manic depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. As is evident in his artwork, Van Gogh’s major debilitating episodes were separated by intervals of astonishingly productive creativity.

Unfortunately, Van Gogh’s mental illness was persistent, and likely lead him to take little care of himself physically. According to ‘Vincent Van Gogh’s Illness’ by Jamison Kay Redfield, and Richard Jed Wyatt, Van Gogh drank heavily and smoked, isolated himself, and oftenly drove himself to near self-starvation. Van Gogh’s use of absinthe, a highly alcoholic beverage often associated with negative long term effects and social disorders, may have played a role in his unusual perception of light and brilliant color, as reflected in some of his most famous masterpieces.

The evolution of the mental suffering Van Gogh faced can be followed by analyzing his art over the course of his life. His paintings display deep insight on his authentic mind. Van Gogh produced some of his most famous paintings while in mental asylums. Nature features prominently in the series of paintings Van Gogh produced while he was a patient in the Saint-Paul Asylum. Van Gogh summarized his reason for this in a letter he wrote to his brother Theo from Saint-Paul. Van Gogh wrote, “They say—and I am very willing to believe it—that it is difficult to know yourself—but it isn’t easy to paint yourself either”. Van Gogh thus painted the landscapes seen through his cell window, while ignoring the confining bars separating him from the outside world, because of the disconnecting void he felt with himself. As a result he produced landscape paintings that acquired the dramatic emotion that would otherwise show expression in self-portraits. Another recurring pattern in the art of Van Gogh is the use of vibrant yellow. Van Gogh used so much yellow that many people believe it was influenced by a mental condition, rather than as a deliberate stylistic taste. Van Gogh was prescribed digitalis, a medicine used to treat certain heart conditions, in hopes of preventing his epileptic seizures. People receiving excessive amounts of this drug can begin to see everything with a yellow hue, or halo. Although rare, patients taking digitalis also can develop unequal pupil size, due to the drugs targeting of certain enzymes found in the eye. The halos seen and described by patients suffering from this digitalis side effect look much like the ones present in Van Gogh’s, The Starry Night. This painting was one among many produced by Van Gogh from inside his asylum cell 

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Vincent Van Gogh As the Greatest Dutch Painter. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from

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