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Meissner, W.W. (1994). Vincent van Gogh as Artist: A Psychoanalytic Reflection. Ann. Psychoanal., 22:111-141.

(1994). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 22:111-141

Vincent van Gogh as Artist: A Psychoanalytic Reflection

W. W. Meissner, S.J.

Vincent's art conveys an intensely personal quality and a powerful sense of communion with Nature—whether in the sweep of open fields of wheat, the tortured ruggedness of torn and twisted trees, the majestic panorama of the sky and its burning candles of light, the delicate beauty and vibrant color of flowers, or in the haggard face of a peasant woman. All of Vincent's painting carries the stamp of Vincent: it is an expression of something within himself that appears on the canvas, emanating in some unfathomable way from the tip of his brush. I would like to explore these dimensions of Vincent's artistic experience to see whether a psychoanalytic perspective can shed any light on these aspects of Vincent and his work and on the creative power they embody.

The Quest for Meaning

Vincent's life was a saga of unremitting disappointment, disillusionment, and failure. He began his life under a cloud of depression and disappointment as the replacement for his stillborn brother—the other Vincent whose memory and unresolved mourning became a burden to his early life and a dominating unconscious fantasy motif of his adult years (Meissner, 1992a). He tried his hand at selling art (1869–1876) in his uncle's art dealership, the prominent firm of Goupil in Paris, but that too proved abortive and ended in failure.

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