Tortured artist  

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The Death of Chatterton (1856) by Henry Wallis
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The Death of Chatterton (1856) by Henry Wallis
Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (1889) by Vincent van Gogh  Van Gogh struggled with poverty and mental illness for most of his life is regarded as a famous example of the tortured artist.
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Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe (1889) by Vincent van Gogh
Van Gogh struggled with poverty and mental illness for most of his life is regarded as a famous example of the tortured artist.
The Poor Poet (1839) is a painting by Carl Spitzweg
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The Poor Poet (1839) is a painting by Carl Spitzweg

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The tortured artist is a stock character and real-life stereotype who is in constant torment due to frustrations with art and other people. Tortured artists feel alienated and misunderstood due to the perceived ignorance or neglect of others who do not understand nor support them and the things they feel are important. They sometimes smoke, experience sexual frustration and recurring heartbreak, and generally appear overwhelmed by their own emotions and inner conflicts. They are often mocked in popular culture for "thinking too much", being quixotic, or coming across as pretentiously adverse to happiness and fun. Other stereotypical traits vary between extremes – from being narcissistic and extroverted to being self-loathing and introverted. Tortured artists are often self-destructive in behavior and are generally associated with mental health issues such as substance abuse, personality disorders, or depression. Tortured artists are often prone to self-mutilation and have a high rate of suicide.

Typical real-life artists include Jackson Pollock, Egon Schiele and Vincent van Gogh.


Contents

Pathologizing the artist

pathologizing the artist

The period of 1880-1920 saw a rise in pathologizing the artist, the medicalization of creativity. Cesare Lombroso with The Man of Genius and Max Nordau's Degeneration were the first efforts in the field.

Frank Kermode in the introduction to The Romantic Agony by Mario Praz writes:

"Max Nordau's Degeneration aims at being a literary nosology of the Decadent Movement, but it is completely discredited by its pseudo-erudition, its grossly positivist point of view, and its insincere moral tone."

Creativity and mental illness

creativity and mental illness

The 1996 book Touched with Fire, by American psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, looks at the relationship between bipolar disorder and artistic creativity. It contains a number of case histories of dead people who are described as probably having suffered from bipolar disorder.


Other artistic stereotypes similar to the tortured artist

Poète maudit

poète maudit

A poète maudit (accursed poet) is a poet living a life outside or against society. Abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, violence, and in general any societal sin, often resulting in an early death are typical elements of the biography of a poète maudit.

Byronic hero

Byronic hero

The Byronic hero is a variation on the tortured artist. He is an idealized but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of Lord Byron, characterized by his ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb as being "mad, bad and dangerous to know". The Byronic hero has the following characteristics:

Examples

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Tortured artist" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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