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Mental Illness and Art

January 2nd, 2010 · No Comments · Music and the Brain

Many famous composers, performers and artists were definitively diagnosed with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.  Robert Schumann died in an “asylum” in Germany after attempting suicide by jumping off a bridge into the Rhine river.  Many composers suffered from severe depression and alcoholism.  These illnesses have no correlation with intelligence or talent.

Today I was introduced to a fantastic website of art by people suffering from mental illness.  These painting are amazing and each tells a powerful story!  Please take a look and leave me a comment!  (Thanks to Tamara Ikenberg!)

The progressive escape of reality towards delusion is expressed in the pictures below. They were painted by Louis Wain, an European artist in the beginning of this century. Since Wain was young, he used to draw and paint cats for calendars, albums, postcards, etc. When he became 57 years old, he  was affected by an unknow mental disorder , which overtook his life as well his art. The last 15 years of his life were spent in psychiatric institutions. His cat’s paintings started to change and to show startling images. Quite revealing of his psychotic condition were the cat’s eyes. See how they become fixed with hostility, even in the earliest paintings, because the psychotic probably tends to think that the world is looking upon him in a menacing way. Another sign is the fragmentation of the cat’s body. They become altered in a strange way under the psychotic’s gaze, and almost always are represented as distorted and phantastic shapes



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