Mad, Bad & Artistic

I did warn that I wanted to cover the unexpected in my blog. So today we’re looking at some of the artists who were seriously disturbed and bad, some even evil, but also artistically talented.

I’m going to start with an artist that Chris O’Brien introduced me to. Antonio Ligabue (1899 – 1965) (Real name: Antonio Laccabue) who was an exceptional naive painter of incredible pictures. I won’t go into the sordid details of his life but suffice to say he suffered a severe psychiatric illness as exemplified in his paintings particularly those of tigers and his self portraits.
Antonio was born in Zurich, Switzerland but roamed around and was expelled from Switzerland dying in Gualtieri, Reggio Emilia, Italy. He suffered frequent admissions into mental hospitals and the rumours that surround him suggest a very dark side. However towards the end of his life he asked to be baptized and confirmed, seeking redemption. Here is a link to more of his paintings.

Was Walter Sickert really Jack the Ripper?
We met Sicket (1860 - 1942) in an earlier Blog when we talked about him wandering around painting Cornwall with Whistler. However, three authors including Patricia Cornwall have claimed that the English painter was in fact the real Jack the Ripper or at the very least his accomplice. Certainly he was fascinated with these crimes and even did a painting of Jack the Ripper's Bedroom.
Its highly unlikely that the truth will ever be known but let's take a quick glance at some more of Sickert's paintings. He was prolific in his paintings of naked women but that hardly makes him a killer. His Brighton Pierrots is delightful.
And I love his palatte of colours as used in his buildings.
There can be no doubt about the crimes committed by our next artist-Adolf Hitler who recounted in Mein Kampf how his aspirations to become an artist were ruined because he failed the entrance exam of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Apparently he used to tint and peddle postcards featuring scenes of Vienna frequenting artists' cafes in Munich hoping that established artists might help him with his ambition to paint professionally. It is also claimed that Hitler told the British ambassador Nevile Henderson: I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist. Let's have a look at a couple of paintings by Hitler.

Churchill was also a very good painter but I don’t think we could call him mad or bad. Perhaps we will look at politicians who painted along the way.

If we go back in time to Caravaggio (1571-1610) - he was a sheer genius with the paint brush - and a murderer!

Benvenuto Cellini (1500 - 1571) who was probably unequalled in the use of precious metals and according to Michelangelothe greatest goldsmith ever. He killed at least three people including a rival goldsmith. He escaped punishment because of his skill and the is a statue on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge over the Arno in Florence erected in commemoration of his art!

I haven't found any real evils artist Downunder but Joy Hester and Albert Tucker from the Angry Penguins Art group dealt with a couple of Blogs ago, just up and left their son so that they could follow their own individual goals. Fortunately for Sweeney he was looked after by John and Sunday Reed who eventually adopted him but sadly he suicided at 34. The whole tragic tale is summarised here.

But I want to finish with Olive Wharry (1886-1947) because the contrast between her beautiful delicate paintings with their subtle tones and her other life as a militant suffragette is enormous.

Olive was not only an artist and suffragette, she was into smashing up windows and going on hunger strikes when in prison. But she is best known as an arsonist who burnt down the tea pavilion at Kew Gardens.Olive wasn’t mad but she was certainly bad and passionate and a beautiful artist.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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