Date of Submission
Project Advisor 1
Our merging of artistic ability and mental instability is a notion that goes farther back than many of us realize. This idea of “fine madness,” that creativity and madness are not so far apart, and that artists have, through their mercurial temperaments some kind of extraordinary gift, has a long history and was significantly bolstered during the Romantic Era. But what does the “mad genius” archetype actually mean for artists? How does it change how they and their art are viewed by the public? My senior thesis explores how being labeled mentally ill has affected the reputation and reception of Vincent Van Gogh and Yayoi Kusama — arguably the two most famous examples of this trope. My research focuses on how the label of mental illness has led to myth-making that has propelled the two to fame but also led critics to unfairly attribute the lion’s share of their artistic ability and success to the presence of mental illness. It looks at the similarities between the receptions of Van Gogh and Kusama’s as well as how they differ: notably, through the fact that Kusama had agency and control over the narrative created about her life and art, while Van Gogh did not.
Open Access Agreement
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Erim, Cemre Z., "Legacies of Madness: An Exploration of the Reception of Vincent Van Gogh and Yayoi Kusama" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 80.
This work is protected by a Creative Commons license. Any use not permitted under that license is prohibited.Bard Off-campus Download
Bard College faculty, staff, and students can login from off-campus by clicking on the Off-campus Download button and entering their Bard username and password.