Gustave Courbet- Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man)- Matthews Gallery blog

Gustave Courbet, Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man)

We all know that Vincent Van Gogh left this world with 1.5 ears and a (probably) self-inflicted gunshot wound in his chest, but when you go on a hunt for the craziest artistic geniuses, the fou-roux starts seeming positively rational.

After all, Michelangelo was so averse to bathing or changing his clothes that his long-suffering assistant once wrote, “He has sometimes gone so long without taking (his shoes) off that then the skin came away, like a snake’s, with the boots.” The Renaissance master would wander off in the middle of conversations and refused to attend his brother’s funeral.

Gustave Courbet went a little nuts after he tangled with the French government and exiled himself to Switzerland, painting several “self-portraits” of bleeding, mangled fish. You surely have to be a bit bonkers to drive so many lovers insane, so Pablo Picasso deserves a spot in the art sanitarium as well. Then there’s Paul Gauguin, who made up romantic, insanely elaborate lies about his dismal trips to Tahiti.

Lesser-known prodigies only suffer more, it seems. French painter Leon Bonvin was found dangling from a tree after a dealer refused to show his paintings. Dutch artist Abraham van der Doort, who was Charles I’s art conservationist, thought he’d lost one of the king’s favorite pieces and offed himself. Dutch painter Herman Kruyder ended it all in a psychiatric ward, and Polish writer Stanislaw Ignacy Witkierwicz fed his lover poison and slit his wrists after the Second Army invaded Poland.

Does true artistic brilliance come hand in hand with insanity? Perhaps to see things in revolutionary ways, you have to take a trip off the edge. What do you think? Join the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or in the comments section below.

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