Are Grief and Suffering a prerequisite for Good Art?

The society in general has a stereotypical image of a tortured artist, who is inspired by the grief and sufferings of his life which further intensifies his creativity, leading him to create artworks that are marked as masterpieces. We have fine examples to prove this- Paul Gauguin made his finest piece after the death of his beloved daughter, Frida Kahlo’s paintings depicted her severe physical pain, Picassos’ ‘Blue Period’ paintings were made while he mourned the death of his closest friend and the list goes on. However it’s not fair to declare that pain and suffering are a precondition that one needs to experience in order to be a good artist.


(Left) Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with thorns around her neck. The artist depicts the physical pain she had all her life due to a childhood accident. Credits: fridakahlo.org (Right) The Guitarist was painted just after the death of Picasso's closest friend. During this time, the artist painted many canvases depicting the miseries of the downtrodden. Credits: pablopicasso.org

In essence, artists are more sensitive than the average person, elements of passionate experience of any sort is what deeply touches and stirs their artistic soul. However inspiration can be derived from not just a heartbreaking experience, blissful happiness and love could also be a strong reason for the same. Take Dali for example, it was the love for his wife and muse Gala that inspired him to make extraordinary masterpieces. In fact her death gradually killed the artist in him, unfortunately like many others he couldn’t use art to vent out his depression. M. F. Husain’s immense fascination for Madhuri reawakened the filmmaker in him. Monet’s passion for botany and landscaping led him to produce numerous unique artworks, made in his garden at Givery.

A exceptional portrait made by Dali of his muse and wife Gala. She was the most influential figure in his life. His love for her is evident in most of his artworks. Credits: dali.com


M. F. Husain’s immense fascination for Madhuri reawakened the filmmaker in him. “Madhuri is a classical beauty and still fascinates me” – as quoted by the late master. Credits: artsoftheearthindia.in

We all have our own individual way of dealing with emotionally difficult situations, artists’ use their art as a coping mechanism. Whether their feelings are generated from tough times or happy moments, they chose to channel them out by objectifying their experience with complete sincerity. The honesty of this visual expression is what makes their artworks special.

In my experience as an artist and a curator, artists’ are most contented while painting, its an evolution process for their soul. Ultimately what matters is that an artist is in a happier place while creating an artwork, what has lead to the making of it, heartache or joyfulness is not as important. Potpourri of sensitivity, musing and observation is the right recipe for good art, experiencing pain and misery is no criteria for making a masterpiece.

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