Into the World of Beautiful Tragedies


“It is the least beautiful thing I have ever seen

and we call it the mark of an artist

to stand in the center of an ocean

and see nothing but desert.

To be seated at a feast, but still

swallowing sand.”

Vincent, by Ashe Vernon


The field of psychology is young and ever-evolving. Hence, it is of no surprise that people’s perception of mental illness is a wide ranging spectrum, with varying degrees of understanding as well as prejudices.

Although, we have come a long way from the era when witchcraft and sorcery was associated with mental illnesses, we are yet to fully grasp the severity of it. Once, those who suffered from mental illness was considered a social pariah, but now with the increasing awareness on mental illness and related issues, the view has drastically shifted to the other end of the spectrum.

With the birth of the trend of ‘tragic beauty’ and reposting artfully smudged mascara, one’s struggles and traumas are slowly but surely becoming something to boast about. But, is it as simple as that?

Romanticism of mental illness is described as the depiction of mental disorders in a glamorous manner. Throughout the history, there are various instances where artists depicted their struggle with mental illnesses through the medium of art. Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, Edward Hogarth and Vincent van Gogh are some of the most prominent artists who described their own struggles through beautiful words and paintings.

Is that romanticism of mental illness? Yes. But, it is also their method of catharsis. Through their artwork, these artists tried to relieve themselves of their own dark and harmful emotions, thoughts and actions. Hence, making this form of romanticism a necessity for not just their own coping, but also as a coping mechanism for the admirers of their artwork.

Vincent van Gogh, a post-impressionist painter can be considered the archetype of ‘tortured artists’. His paintings tell the story of a man who was constantly at war with himself and his mental illnesses. But, is it right to call his art the result of his trauma? Of course not. What you and I may consider to be beautiful, was just his way of coping with his trauma.

To the inexperienced eyes of a viewer, understanding the dark and complex thoughts and emotions is a difficult task but, understanding the beauty of the art, which is nothing more than a byproduct of his thoughts and emotions is easier.

Thus, making the feelings and emotions behind the art equally beautiful. It is in a way romanticizing the darkness, but wasn’t that what Van Gogh did to begin with. He romanticized his thoughts through his own beautiful mode of art, to cope with the otherwise difficult emotions.

The art in itself is a metaphor not everyone can understand, but even those who do understand sometimes forget the meaning, lost by the beauty of the art. For some, it is easier to call things hauntingly beautiful no matter how haunting it is. But, when does this necessity become mere aesthetics?

In this era, where the whole world is available on the tips of our fingers, spreading awareness about mental health has become effortless. While paradoxically, the need to make everything a trend in social media and the obsession to fit into the box of the said trend and showcase it to the world, has unveiled the darker side of the phenomenon of romanticizing mental illnesses.

What was once considered a method of catharsis, a necessity, has now become mere aesthetics. Mental illnesses and the struggles of people who fight such illnesses on a daily basis has become a method to get more likes and reposts in social media.

This trend of ‘beautiful sadness’ which began as a method of spreading awareness, lost it it’s way in the most harmful manner. It lead to people posting picture promoting self-harm and eating disorders, increased self-diagnosis and even consumption of harmful pills without prescription.

In conclusion, romanticism of mental health cannot be fit in to the box of evil or wrong, it is much more complex than that. While the trend of ‘beautiful sadness’ has made harmful consequences than beneficial ones, romanticizing mental illness is still a valid and powerful method of catharsis for the artists and sometimes for even the admirers of the artwork.

Furthermore, realistic depiction of mental illness through art in social media is a powerful method of increasing awareness about the same. But, romanticism of mental illness as a method of appealing to a certain audience, will only bring harm and drastically ruin the progress mankind has made in increasing awareness about mental health and breaking the stigmas related to it.

What do you think?

505 Points

Written by Niranjana

Story MakerYears Of Membership
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