Why are Artists crazy?

  Why are so many brilliant artists a bit wacky or down right nuts?

’Madness, violence, sexual harassment  and worse is everywhere in the arts.’’

Is there a connection between mental illness and creativity? 

Throughout history and today, many famous people in the arts from Vincent Van Gogh, Rossetti, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso and contemporaries like Dali and Warhol have suffered from mental illness. Dali Rose Poster Print

Then, of course, there are the stories of Marlon Brando, Harvey Weinstein, Phil Spector, Michael Jackson of being sexual predators.  

Are not, all of these painters, writers, actors, musicians and other creatives still just as great and brilliant at what they accomplished; whether they are guilty or not?

Lillith Rosetti Combing Hair

                                               Click Image for Info

Bernardo Bertolucci the famous Italian film director staged a rape scene with Marlon Brando and 19 year old french actress Maria Schneider in the "Last Tango in Paris." Not unusual on a movie set except for one thing; no one told the actress!                                             

Later when Maria pressed charges against Brando and Bertolucci and it went to court they asked the famous director why he staged such a horrible scene.  He said "it was art" The court gave both of them 2 months in jailed but immediately suspended it to no time severed. This does not make it okay- but it certainly makes you question: are artists simply accepted as crazy?  


Is there a connection between mental illness and creativity? 

Well it’s a question that certainly runs along a very fine line between creative genius and totally all out Nuts! Anybody walking that line to get to the extremes of creativity or like Einstein to explain the universe in words probably runs that risk. 

Don Quixote dared to dream the impossible dream in the great novel by Miguel De Cervantes. Which he had to go way over the line to do and he did not know he had crossed it. It was just what he had to do; which is a common answer from highly successful and creative sorts! 

 Don Quixote Windmill Limited Edition Print


                                              Click Image for Info

Many artist have suffered from a mental illness. Famous writer Sylvia Plath, Musician Kurt Cobain, and the wacky actor and comedian Robin Williams ultimately lost their struggle with depression. However, their brilliant creative minds influenced art, music, and film today. 



Split a woman with four different personalities

This print ‘Split’ is of a woman with several different faces, or personalities.

                                             Click image for info

Scientists have been researching to see if there is a connection between mental illness and creativity for many years. So far, their findings have been vastly different. However, one thing remains clear- there are alot of creative people who are just plain crazy. 

One theory that is the most credible is from the study of artists brains and the chemical dopamine. You might be wondering ‘what is dopamine and what does it have to do with artists being nuts?’ Well, hold my dragon! I’m about to tell you! 

                        Girl with Dragon Princess Khalessi Game of Thrones

                                              Click image for info

The chemical dopamine is responsible for feelings of happiness, pleasure, risk taking  and reward. As a neurotransmitter, dopamine sends messages to your brain that are exciting. This is why if you drink coffee, you might get a rush of pleasure from a run to Starbucks. If you go to get coffee often enough, you might even get a headache without it. Addictive drugs like caffeine activate our dopamine levels, and in the case of caffeine, gets us wired. We all have had one too many cups of coffee before and ended up bouncing off the walls, jumping from one thing to another, and- oh look a Rabbit! 


Rabbit in red shoes holding a basket sits on a log

This bizarre bunny by featured Artist Caleb, is definitely creative! It reminds me of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. Click image for info

  This sort of rapid firing of ideas and behaviors, often leads to creativity. Studies have shown that artists process and have levels of dopamine similar to those of schizophrenics. According to scientists, having more dopamine receptors that go straight to the thalamus, may result in the bizarre yet positive trait of schizophrenia- seeing things in a new way. Of course, having a mental illness is not a requirement to be an artist or a highly creative person, but the tortured soul of the artist can certainly be inspiring!  


Starry Night Van Gogh

                                            Click Van Gogh Image for Info 

You may have known Vincent Van Gogh was hospitalized several times during his life for a mood disorder, however, did you know that his masterpiece ‘Starry Night’ was actually his view from his mental asylum window? During one of his episodes of mania, Van Gogh cut off his own ear. Unfortunately, in his lifetime, there was little known about mental illness, and Van Gogh’s treatment plan for his bipolar disorder was alternating between hot and cold baths.   


Van Gogh 150 years art collage poster


This fun poster celebrates Van Gogh’s amazing career as an artist and features his most famous works. Click image for info. 

Another famous artist who struggled with a mental illness was Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s struggle with depression and emotional turmoil is apparent in all of his paintings. The artist sank in a deep depression after his dear friend committed suicide. He often painted society's outcasts, as well as hung out with them. Pablo Picasso was well known for using and abusing his models.He once stated that “Women are machines for suffering." Picasso, like many batterers, suffered from mental illness and used drugs and alcohol. These charcoal drawings by Picasso, are full of emotional depth. 

 Picasso Girl Drawing



Depression also took hold of famous artist Claude Monet. Monet, most famous for his Plein air paintings and beautiful landscapes, tried to commit suicide by drowning himself in the Seine River. At that time, the artist struggled to make ends meet for his wife and child. The artist continued to paint, and quickly became one of the wealthiest artists in history.   


Monet Claude Garden of lavender and lilac flowers

         This beautiful Monet is dramatic and inspiring. Click image for Info.

While the link between creativity and mental health is an ongoing study, we’re all a little mad here at Seven North Art.  Who is your favorite nutty artist ?  What do you think about artists, creativity and issues with mental health? 

We would love to hear from you!


For more information on Creativity and Dopamine, visit the article by Medical University of Vienna here


  • hjfhgfkvjgjbkunhuknkjhjknhjh!

  • KjoSAVknh


  • wPRhgQFLJ

  • KcpAefoLkrZ


Leave a comment

Back to the top