The violence of the myth of the tortured artist

Gabrielle Anne Everall


This article explores the way the myth of the totured artist both stereotypes ‘the mentally ill’ while obscuring the way ‘the mentally ill’ are tortured.  The stereotype of the tortured artist violates ‘the mentally ill’ by reducing them to a diagnosis.  An example of this can be seen in the way Van Gogh is pathologized.  Hartlaub describes Van Gogh’s The Starry Night thus, ‘The realism of a neurotic, a desperate genius, often great, sometimes grotesque but always pathological’.  The myth also creates romantic typologies of the creativity of ‘the mentally ill’ by asserting that some ‘mental illnesses’ are more creative than others.  Dichotomies of reason and madness are created where the creativity of ‘the mentally ill’ is distinguished between those who are genuinely creative.  ‘The mentally ill’ are seen as a lost cause who cannot reproduce and will die young.  Artists are stereotyped while the truth of the violence of the psychiatic system is denied.  Such as the torture (tear gassing and sexual assault) of teenage boys in Don Dale detention centre in the NT ‘the mentally ill’ are tortured (drugged, given ECT) in the state apparatus of the mental hospital.  A report by the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Concil shows that 45% of women are sexually assaulted in care in psychiatic hospitals.  An involntary patient Garth Daniels has been given shock treatment about 97 times sometimes without general anaesthetic or muscle relaxant in Box Hill hospital in Victoria.


Mental Illness; Psychiatry; Violence

Full Text:



Facebook: Follow us on FacebookTwitter: @WritingBelow

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.

ISSN: 2202-2546

© Copyright 2015 La Trobe University. All rights reserved.

CRICOS Provider Code: VIC 00115M, NSW 02218K