Inter-relationships between artistic creativity and mental and physical illness in eminent female visual artists: a qualitative exploration

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Artistic creativity has long been associated with physical and psychological suffering. This phenomenon has also been the subject of empirical research. The anguished “artistic genius” stereotype is ubiquitous, and there is evidence to suggest that artists may have heightened susceptibility to psychopathology. The present qualitative study utilized in-depth semi-structured interviews, in accordance with the methodology of Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis to explore inter-relationships between artistic creativity, and physical and mental health among 10 eminent Australian female visual artists. Results revealed complex, reciprocal interactions whereby physical and mental health impacted creativity and vice versa. Physical and psychological illnesses were found to either diminish or stimulate creativity due to the interplay of biological predispositions, personal vulnerabilities, and environmental factors. It was also revealed that immersive creative engagement could have therapeutic, cathartic effects and facilitate post-traumatic growth. The stressors and demands of professional creative practice could, however, also have a detrimental impact upon artists physically and psychologically. These findings contribute to existing understandings regarding the intricacy of the relationship between creativity, physical and psychological health. They highlight the need to challenge romantic societal mythologies regarding the impact of suffering on creativity in the visual arts and explore these issues in a nuanced manner to best support those in creative industries.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Creative Behavior
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • creativity
  • eminent female artists
  • physical illness
  • psychopathology
  • visual artists

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