General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Where does the generalization that true artistry arises from morose emotions originate from?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25804 points ) January 8th, 2013

Why does the generalization that artists feed on negative emotions persist?

Certainly many artists suffer, but it’s not universal.

I act and write. My experience has been that I produce better work when I’m stable and not when I’m hyper, manic, sad, or depressed. I wrote a series of award winning poetry when I was particularly successful at my day job.

So, why the insistence that artists have to suffer to create?

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10 Answers

ucme's avatar

It’s quite a pretentious cliche isn’t it? True of certain artists certainly, Van Gogh/Beethoven/Dali, but in common with all generalizations, pretty wide of the mark.
Conversely, a lot of my comedic heroes hid desolate demons behind the laughter & led a fairly dark existence.

Judi's avatar

I don’t think they have to suffer to create but I do believe that some of the best artists KNOW suffering. Something about that contrast between joy and sorrow. It’s the intensity of the feelings that show through in the art.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

I think it could be because it almost seems human nature to focus on the negative instead of the positive. This could be in part due to the media. They always have the most attention focused on tragedies instead of truimphs. But then again that could just be, because in general, that’s what makes people tune in.

Everyone remembers school shootings, but no one remembers who won the lottery or a childhood love reunited.

Shippy's avatar

I think not always Van Gogh for example was high on life at the time he painted many of his more colorful paintings. Of course he had moments of pain, and that showed too. But for the most part his paintings reflected gaiety.

bkcunningham's avatar

Good question. Maybe because it is so difficult to make ends meet as an artist, regardless of the medium and regardless of the attitude or mental health of the artist. I’m sure many an artist has suffered financially and mentally while striving to fulfill that yearning and drive within themselves to create.

elbanditoroso's avatar

My view is that it isn’t the morosity itself that is the problem. It is the sadness and helplessness that comes from not having any income which makes artists morose. A monetarily successful artist (which is a very rare species) is more likely to paint/sculpt/write out of joy and wonder than out of morosity.

Look at the thousands of artists from the middle ages on to know, and the millions that call themselves artists that exist today. A large majority never achieve commercial success. So they ‘agonize’ and that agony shows up in their art. It’s that dynamic which, in my opinion, gives rise to the “starving artist” legend of suffering.

It’s about the money, not the artist.

KNOWITALL's avatar

High emotion often evokes more powerful writing.

wundayatta's avatar

It may just be that artists spend more time being depressed than manic. So more work is depressed. I think we may have cause and effect the wrong way around. It’s not that depression causes artistry. It’s that artists are depressed a lot when they do their work. Their work reflects their mood.

And a much higher percentage of artists are manic-depressive than the manic-depressive proportion of the overall population. Manic-depressives are more likely to be in the arts. For that reason, people think that manic-depressives are smarter and more creative than the overall population. But that may not be the case. It just may be they are in more high profile jobs that get more public attention.

zenvelo's avatar

As @KNOWITALL demonstrates, people don’t identify positive or happy emotions as having any depth. People view artists that are happy or good humored as not being in touch with their true feelings. That’s why Cahrles Schulz, despite his lifelong battle with depression, is considered just a cartoonist, although his insight into the human condition was actually profound.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

Going along with my original answer since I was the only one who didn’t receive a GA. Think about it, when the cops or an ambulance goes to a neighbors house, everybody stands outside or stands at their window and stares. But no one seems to do that, when two old friends who haven’t seen each other, hug each other in the front yard.

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