By Mason Johnson

Waleska, GA.- Art as a passion has always been an expensive affair. Those that attained success in their life had the backing of the bourgeois class, such as Leonardo and Michelangelo. Those that lacked fame in life may find themselves appreciated long after the dirt is piled upon their box in the ground. Even more, however, are never given the slightest hint of lip service in life or death. The Artist in this context becomes the ultimate ascetic and the art his God. This view on the relationship between art and the artist is a toxic perspective.

“Self Portrait” by Vincent Van Gogh
Found courtesy of

For example, let’s look at one of the most famed and archetypal artists of this type, Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is a legendary artist in the art world, something that he would never know. He died long before his art would gain the appreciation it deserved. Now any casual research in Gogh will reveal a life wracked with mental health issues, and despair. It is natural and quite horrific to claim that without such horrid suffering that his art would not be possible. Now I believe we can never honestly know how his illness affected, and even if his work was only possible through his suffering, then the art is not worth it. Vincent Van Gogh in 1890 committed suicide; we cannot know what misery Van Gogh had to endure for him to reach that point. All I can guess at is that, we may could have seen more of his legacy if only there were someone he could’ve turned to.

“Skull” by Vincent Van Gogh
Found courtesy via wikipedia

Now, why do artists starve? That answer lies in basic economics, the supply of artists has always been higher than the demand for them. This failure of our economic system leads to forced poverty which in turn creates a romantic philosophy of “the starved artist.” This philosophy of these artists is that to be true to his art, he must suffer for it. In this view, poverty is heroic and the only important life decision as an artist. This view of the world supports the idea of “not selling out” and can lead to artists to prioritize being “genuine” over eating and taking care of yourself. This self-abuse is dangerous to their health, and undoubtedly their art. The idea that poverty and hunger is a creator’s ideal state is a ludicrous proposition stemming from an overly romantic era of the world, and one that should’ve been tossed out years ago.

“Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette” by Vincent Van Gogh
Found via

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