Artists fit for the asylum
If you thought Van Gogh hacking off his ear for a prostitute was something, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Michelangelo Buonarroti 1475-1564
“I am a poor man and of little worth who is laboring in that art that God has given me in order to extend my life as long as possible."
Contribution to art: Sculptor, painter, architect and poet; you name it, he made it the most recognizable art known to man, and he probably showed you the first penis you ever saw.
The crazy comes out: Scholars have long suspected Buonarroti had autism, which explains how he’d be able to paint for four years on a ceiling. Buonarroti it would often end interactions by walking away mid sentence. To make it worse, he rarely bathed or even changed his clothes. The icing on the crazy cake: He painted and sculpted so many nudes around Rome to piss off the pope that many were painted over and censored.
Leonardo Da Vinci 1452-1519
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."
Contribution: A photo of this guy is in the dictionary under “Renaissance Man.” Painter, sculptor, scientist and inventor, he created “The Mona Lisa,” and hundreds of half-baked inventions such as the helicopter, that came to fruition hundreds of years after his death.
The crazy comes out: Da Vinci was paranoid and ADD as fuck. So much so that he created mirror script and wrote in this code so nobody could steal his ideas. He only finished a handful of the artwork he was commissioned to do because he couldn’t concentrate on one for too long. He never even delivered “The Mona Lisa” to the people who paid for it. Then there’s the whole question of whether Mona is Leo’s lover or Da Vinci in drag.
Jackson Pollock 1912-1956
“When I am in my painting I’m not aware of what I’m doing.”
Contribution to art: He made your 3-year-old sister look like a genius by introducing drip painting and making it the hottest thing since the sun.
The crazy comes out: Pollock was an alcoholic. His benders put him in jail a few times and got him tossed into rehab a few as well. He received alcohol therapy from Jungian psychiatrists that didn’t really work, but the shrinks began using his work in their therapy sessions, thus ushering in a new form of psychiatry. After quitting drip painting because critics called him the best thing to happen to art, he slammed into a tree while drunk driving and killed himself.
Vincent Van Gogh 1853-1890
“I wish they would only take me as I am.”
Contribution to art: He only sold one painting while he was alive, but his technique and works like “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers” has saved him a place in art history books and on mouse pads for the rest of human history.
The crazy comes out: Everyone knows he hacked off his ear for a prostitute, but did you know he’s been posthumously diagnosed with everything from schizophrenia to manic bipolar disorder to lead poisoning? Van Gogh’s lifestyle didn’t help either. He drank so much absinthe he gave himself epilepsy. His episodes caused him to create feverously then plummet into deep depressions where he’d allegedly drink kerosene to end it all. He also tried to kill one of the only friends he ever had. To finish the story of his sad life, he shot himself in the chest and had to wait for the infection to spread through his body before he finally died.
Andy Warhol 1928-1987
“I had a lot of dates, but I decided to stay home and dye my eyebrows.”
Contribution to art: He made art funky and accessible, soup cool, Marilyn Monroe even more iconic, and he was the first to exhibit video art.
Crazy comes out: Andy Warhol rocked the art world so hard the FBI recorded his activities while he was filming “Lonesome Cowboys” in 1968, a film about homosexual cowboys. Warhol didn’t just use the factory to collect artists, he had a fine taxidermy collection as well, including a peacock, lion, penguin and a prize-winning Great Dane named Cecil. He called his tape recorder his wife and consistently recorded all of his conversations on her. To top it all off, he had a drag-queen alter-ego he named Drella.
Richard Dadd 1817-1886
Contribution to art: Dadd produced extremely intricate paintings that exemplified the Victorian era of art.
Crazy comes out: Dadd started out life just fine. It wasn’t until he accompanied Sir Thomas Phillips on an extensive trip of Europe and the Middle East that it all went downhill. He got “sun stroke” later diagnosed as manic-depressive, bipolar disorder. He began to have nightmarish hallucinations and became very violent toward his friends. He believed he was being called upon by Osiris to fight the devil and lived solely on hard-boiled eggs and ale. Eventually, Dadd killed his father because he thought he was the devil, then fled to France, where he attempted to kill a tourist. When police investigated his home they found his eggs and beer stash along with drawings of all his friends with slashed throats. He was arrested and taken to an asylum where he created his most remarkable and famous works.
Contribution to art: He was one of the last great Italian baroque artists to contrast light and dark like never before.
The crazy comes out: Carvaggio was always in trouble with the law. At a young age he fled Milan for assaulting a police officer. He carried a sword with him at all times and would drunkenly roam the streets looking for a fight. He was arrested for throwing a plate of artichokes at a waiter and cutting people. At his peak, Carvaggio killed a man over a tennis match. However, some claim he was attempting to castrate the man. After that incident, the pope put a price on his head, so he got the hell out of Rome.
Edvard Munch 1863-1944
“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I am in them and that is eternity."
Contribution to art: most well known for “The Scream,” Munch put all of his feelings into his art and using bold colors and a near constant theme of suffering.
The crazy comes out: Munch’s entire family had mental illnesses, and he was no exception. Suffering from severe depression and bipolar disorder, he used alcohol as his preferred medication. He brawled with friends and family members, got really into Nietzsche and thought about killing himself nearly every day. Years of anxiety, depression and binge drinking gave him paranoia and morbid hallucinations; it eventually institutionalized him. He was given shock therapy that “cured” him. He no longer painted suffering but placated farm life.
Salvador Dali – 1904-1989
“I don’t take drugs, I am drugs.”
Contribution to art: Salvador Dali is the most iconic surrealist painter that ever lived. “The Persistence of Memory” is his most famous work but just the beginning of the mind-bending reality he created.
Crazy comes out: Dali is known for his eccentric behavior. He walked around wearing a huge, curled moustache, a cape and walking stick, freaking out everyone he came in contact with. He once lectured in a wet suit with a pool cue while walking a pair of Irish wolfhounds. He was kicked out of the surrealist movement because of his political views, but he didn’t care; he just went on painting. It wasn’t until his artistic career was cut short by a motor disorder and his wife dying that he fell into a deep depression. He moved into a castle where he was severely burned and confined to a wheelchair. Then his business manager illegally sold many of his works.