An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Melancholy, Art….. and Genius

Meloncholia or sorrow and the pain as well as self destruction that it wroughts is often very tightly linked to Art. Artists of all hues and all ages and all cultures have destroyed. In fact, in a Harvard study Conducted by Modupe Akinola and Wendy Berry Mendes (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, December 1, 2008), this link between depression/sorrow and art/creativity was firmly established. In this study various types of subjects including those who have high vulnerability to depression (participants’ high baseline levels of an adrenal steroid, which has been previously linked to depression) were asked to create works of art. Some of the participants were asked to do the work after they had experienced rejection prior to the doing the art.

When the professional artists evaluated the works, the art pieces of those who had suffered rejection and depression before the work, were consistently rated higher. The group that had a special vulnerability to depression was consistently ranked the highest.

Is that how it should be? Should pathos be the basis of above average art? Is this link because those who are sensitive and so good artists.. also prone to higher ego and identify with their failure and success so closely? This is an interesting topic, that the author Elizabeth Gilbert (wrote Eat, Pray, Love) chooses to discus.. I think her take and analysis and her suggestion is indeed very useful and significant.

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