Author Type


Publication Date


Document Type

Contribution to Book


This chapter explores interconnections among conceptualizations of mental illness, artistic genius, and emotional suffering. It does so through the extended example of Vincent Van Gogh from 1890, the year of his death, to the 1990s, a period of record-breaking sales of his work. My intention is to assess, first, how popular culture in contrast to modernist high art circles regard the place of emotionality in aesthetic activity. Second, I examine the role of emotions and emotional disorders in public perceptions of mental illness when applied to twentieth century art. Emotional disorders, as I use the term, encompass mood, anxiety, and significant aspects of personality disorders.1 The two preceding concerns link together in that modernism’s artistic persona attempts to unite madness, troubled emotionality, and aesthetic brilliance in one figure. However, as we will see in the case of Van Gogh, attempts to integrate such vastly different, complex aspects of human existence have created more controversy than clarity.

Book Title

Mental Illness in Popular Culture

Book Publisher

Bloomsbury (originally published under Praeger)

Book Editor(s)

Sharon Packer MD

Book Edition

First edition



Document Version

Post Print

Publisher's Statement

Bloomsbury permits self-archiving of non-open access chapters published in these imprints subject to the following conditions: 1 chapter per book after 6 month embargo in an institutional repository. For more information see the self-archiving policy.

The full book can be found on Bloomsbury's website at Mental Illness in Popular Culture.