Vincent’s Illness and the Healing Power of Art
How did Vincent van Gogh deal with the uncertainties of his mental condition? Read the story about how it impacted his life.
Open up with Vincent is a programme with which the Van Gogh Museum aims to contribute to an open dialogue on mental health, based on Vincent van Gogh’s life story and art.
‘I well knew that one could break one’s arms and legs before, and that then afterwards that could get better but I didn’t know that one could break one’s brain and that afterwards that got better too.’
Vincent to his brother Theo, 28 January 1889
Throughout his life, Vincent van Gogh felt the healing power of art. It offered him solace and hope. To him, painting was the sole remedy for the mental issues with which he struggled. In his letters to his brother Theo, Vincent was open about his mental health; he wrote about his periods of crisis and recovery.
Academic research also confirmes that art has a positive effect on health and general well-being. The two-year pandemic greatly impacted our mental well-being, and many young adults indicate that they experience stress and sombre feelings. Precisely in these times, art can help to prevent or alleviate psychological issues.
The programme features a range of activities at the museum, on location and online. All the activities have been developed in collaboration with young adults, associations and professionals specialised in mental health.
The museum regularly organises mindful art viewing sessions, both in the temporary exhibitions and the permanent collection.
In 2023, the sessions in the temporary exhibition Van Gogh in Auvers. His Final Months explore Van Gogh’s panoramic landscapes, while the sessions in the permanent collection examine his expressive use of colour. These special sessions invite you to take a different perspective, and truly see the art.
The yoga sessions are a new addition in the autumn of 2023. Inspired by various works by Van Gogh including Almond Blossom and Butterflies and Poppies, participants travel through the seasons. A combination of classic yoga poses, meditation and mindfulness get you set for the day ahead.
Take time to meditate in two 7-minute sessions inspired by Vincent van Gogh's paintings Olive Grove, Undergrowth, Small Bottle with Peonies and Blue Delphiniums and Self-Portrait with Felt Hat.
Teaching material in Dutch will be available for both primary and secondary schools: