The Art of Suicide - The Pain in Paintings
This research projects deals with the question of whether the paintings of artists who have committed suicide is reflective of their mental states both in terms of content and form. It specifically attempts to answer whether the deterioration in mental state from a time of better mental health to the time of their suicide is expressed graphically in the paintings of those artists and whether this can be reliably observed. It was discovered that paintings in the absence of contact with or interpretation by the artists, provided enough information to enable non-expert judges to make reliable global content-related judgements (e.g. destructiveness and hopelessness) as well as form-specific ratings (e.g. lack of detail) that distinguished between paintings created near the time of artists’ suicides and their paintings created at a time of better mental health as well as paintings from artists who were suffering from depression. It was also found that non-expert judges were able to correctly identify paintings that were created just before artists’ suicides as reflecting serious mental health problems. Furthermore, it was discovered that there was a general preference for paintings from depressed artists over the last paintings by artists who have taken their own lives. The implications of these findings for clinical work both in terms of assessment and treatment were discussed. Furthermore, several limitations of this research project were noted and suggestions for future research were provided.