Distinguished Emeritus Professor Ian A. Aaronson, Medical University of South Carolina, United States of America.

It has been claimed since antiquity that genius and madness are linked. This richly illustrated course will examine the work and personalities of five major artists in order to shed light on this relationship.

Michelangelo Buonarroti is widely acclaimed as the greatest artist of the Italian Renaissance, yet aspects of his behavior raise questions about his mental health. The poet and artist William Blake is regarded as a visionary genius today, but for over a century he was dismissed as a madman. The art of Adolf Wölfli, confined to a mental institution with schizophrenia, not only reveals similarities to that of Blake, but also provides insights into the neurophysiology of the creative process. The angst-ridden paintings of Edvard Munch will be examined in the context of the Nordic psyche, whilst the late paintings of Vincent van Gogh, together with his letters, will be probed for clues about the precise nature of his psychiatric illness. Evidence will be presented that suggests that any creative individual is somewhere along a spectrum extending from the plodder to the genius who lives close to the brink of madness.



1. Michelangelo Buonarroti: A Renaissance genius

2. William Blake: Visionary genius or madman?

3. Adolf Wölfli: Insights from the art of the insane

4. Edvard Munch: Anxiety and the Nordic mind

5. Vincent van Gogh: A psychiatric conundrum


Date: 22–26 January 
Time: 11.15 am
COURSE  FEES  Full: R510,00  Staff: R255,00  Reduced: R130,00