Schizophrenia Art: Art Therapy Or An Expression Of Agony?

Schizophrenia Art cover image

I have schizophrenia. That doesn’t mean I am schizophrenia. I am not my mental illness. My mental illness is a part of me” –  Jonathan Harnisch

Does this quote ring a bell to you? Let me break it down for you!

How many times have you looked at a painting and wondered what on earth was the artist thinking while making this?

Well, we have often come across Schizophrenia art that is brilliant, alluring, yet eerie and confusing.

Yet, we have stood watching them, aghast, having a million questions in our head! 

Schizophrenic art is, in fact, proof of how amazing a human mind can work! 

Mental illness and art have always been intertwined, in fact, many artists that we know of have suffered from different mental illnesses. 

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What makes the art by an artist suffering from mental illness special, you’d reckon?

Most of the time, they use art as a channel— to heal, to be a means of therapy and sometimes just to express, all in a safe space they created! 

There are many famous artists around the globe who were suffering from Schizophrenia, but their illness also gave them a new perspective through art!

I have made an interesting compilation of some of the most famous Schizophrenia artworks in today’s blog that will leave you pondering more. 

Before I introduce you to these paintings, let us look into what Schizophrenia really is and  how Schizophrenia and art are connected! 

Understanding Schizophrenia

Louis Wain's cat painting.
Image: Art File Magazine

How can one define Schizophrenia

It is a chronic and complex mental illness that impacts a person’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. 

Therefore, an individual struggling with schizophrenia leads to perceiving and reacting in drastic ways than people without the illness! 

The symptoms of this mental illness can be quite scary for a person to endure. Some of the major symptoms are:

  • Hallucinations: This is one of the most common symptoms for people who are schizophrenic. Their mental state forces them to see things that are not really there and most times this can be scary. 
  • Delusions: This symptom is again connected to the previous one because the person starts to have false beliefs of his environment. 
  • Psychosis: Yet again, a very eerie symptom to experience. The person starts doubting reality because they are cut off from it. 
  • Perturbed body movements: Because of the person’s mental state, they also experience a lot of physical symptoms that are extremely uncomfortable. 

These are just some of the symptoms from a vast spectrum of this mental illness. 

I chose to bring forward these symptoms because it would help you understand why art plays a vital role in confronting schizophrenia. 

With mental health awareness slowly flourishing around us, these pieces of schizophrenic art show how these illnesses were coped with art centuries ago!

Without further ado, let us indulge in them! 

1. The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch.
Image: Wikimedia

The Scream by Edvard Munch is one of the most famous schizophrenic paintings in the history of art! 

What is the first thing you notice on this spine chilling painting?

Yes, the screaming face that does not seem human-like, with two frail hands cupping the face, as in shock or agony! 

Expressionist artist Munch  manifested his own mental state in this painting.

The painting was Munch’s way of describing a panic attack, where he felt so detached from the world around him.

While feeling detached and derailed, his senses were also heightened, and he felt a wave of screams passing through nature. 

He could not define the feelings through words, but his art is a prime example of a visual representation of an individual’s mental state! 

2. Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke by Richard Dadd

Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke by Richard Dadd
Image: Etsy

This Schizophrenic art, Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke, was created by Richard Dadd in 1864.

Dadd showed signs of schizophrenia at a very young age.

This resulted in him suffering from delusions, anxiety and a general violent nature.

His personal life was in shambles because of his diagnosis and improper treatment provided during the time.

An unsettling fact about his life is that he stabbed his own father.

This happened when his delusions and other symptoms got drastically worse and the illness took over his senses.  

Because he did not have adequate psychiatric help, he channeled his healing through art. 

The schizophrenia drawing, Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke, took Dadd nine years to complete.

This is because he kept applying different layers of paint over and over.

Did you know that he applied so many layers of paint that the painting became three dimensional? 

As you can see above, the painting is immaculate with intricate details! 

It’s surprising what comes out of a very scary illness, right? 

Suggested Read: Famous Sad Paintings 

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3. At The Play by Louis Wain

At The Play by Louis Wain
Image: Etsy

How much do you fancy cats?

In this list of famous schizophrenia art, we have a painting titled At The Play by Louis Wain.

The most obvious thing in this painting is it features several cats, 13 to be precise. 

If you notice it carefully, each cat   has rather comical or psychedelic facial features! 

In fact, this is not the artist’s only cat painting!

Wain was known for his infamous cat paintings that was heavily influenced because of his mental illness. 

Wain was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a later stage of life, i.e., 57, after the death of his beloved wife! 

To recover from it, he admitted himself in psychiatric care, where he drew these very interesting schizo paintings of cats

4. My Eyes At The Moment Of Apparitions by August Natterer

 My Eyes At The Moment Of Apparitions by August Natterer
Image: Wikiart

There goes a saying, “the eyes reflect what is in the heart and soul!”

So, what do you think, August Natterer, an artist with schizophrenia, is trying to show with this pair of haunting eyes?

For the first 39 years of his life, Natterer had a very fruitful journey, after which he started experiencing anxiety attacks and delusions. 

He had described the experience as 10,000 images flashing in front of his eyes in the span of 30 mins 

Once he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Natterer journeyed through several mental asylums and institutions. 

That is when he painted this schizophrenia art, My Eyes In The Time Of Apparition, which possessed a very unsettling and scary feel.

This scary painting has everything that makes it eerie!

The bloodshot eyes, the difference in the irises, and the wide stare gaze at the viewer- they are definitely unnerving!

All together the painting shows a paranoid schizophrenia art. 

Suggested Read: Famous Religious Paintings

5. This Rain by Agnes Martin

This Rain by Agnes Martin
Image: Wikiart

This Rain, the schizophrenia art by Agnes Martin, is a rather interesting one! 

One look at the painting and you’d think, these are just two rectangles of different colors kept beside each other!

But, there is more to decipher from this abstract painting by this famous artist with schizophrenia. 

Martin hid her diagnosis from many for almost her whole lifetime, probably because it wasn’t well accepted.

But a true art admirer knows that one’s art can expose more than what the eye beholds!

This schizophrenic artist’s art has always been minimalist.

The art here only shows that this could just be the way she sees the world around her. 

This Rain is a classic reminder to understand that schizophrenic art looks a certain way because that is what the artist experiences! 

Suggested Read: Rothko’s White Center 

6. Pound of Repose by Yayoi Kusama

Pound of Repose by Yayoi Kusama
Image: Merci Magazine

Famous schizophrenia artist, Yayoi Kusama is known for her thought inducing psychedelic paintings! 

Pound of Repose is one such piece of schizophrenia art from her collection of wondrous paintings.

As you can see, the initial look at the painting can resemble an amoeba.

This is because of its structure, but then you see the little details, very carefully made!

And as I mentioned before, there is always a new perspective introduced by an artist with schizophrenia. 

In Kusama’s case, if you notice, she used a lot of dots, and vibrant and bold colors to express her perspective through art.

If anyone can put contrast in art using unimaginable hues, it is definitely Kusama! 

Author Says Hi!

Hello Readers,

Phew, that was an interesting piece to write about!

I hope this piece helped you with better information about schizophrenia and schizophrenic art! 

Please feel free to reach out to us in the comment section below.

Until the next time, 

Cheers xx

Frequently Asked Questions

How does schizophrenia manifest in art?

In many cases of schizophrenia, art is used as therapy. Art therapy helps the individual to communicate their symptoms, and create a safe space for themselves.

What are some of the most famous Schizophrenic art?

The Scream by Edvard Munch, At The Play by Louis Wain, and My Eyes At The Moment Of The Apparition by August Natterer are some of the most famous Schizophrenic art.

How does art therapy help schizophrenia?

People suffering with schizophrenia undergo several symptoms. These symptoms can be very unpleasant and scary and often they struggle with expressing them. Art therapy works as a medium for schizophrenic individuals to express what they’re going through.

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