Van Gogh Vs. Dali: Who Was Crazier?

Artists Vincent Van Gogh and Salvatore Dali were both renown for their bizarre behavior. But which famous artist was truly insane?

Throughout his life Van Gogh fasted many times for days on end, drank excessively, and partook of the incredibly potent liquor absinthe. At one point he cut off his own ear and gave it to a prostitute. In 1890 at the age of 37, he ended his life with a pistol.

In 1991 researchers came up with a convincing theory—that the symptoms described by Van Gogh indicate that the artist may have suffered a hereditary metabolic disorder called acute intermittent porphyria, the symptoms of which would account for Van Gogh’s frequent hallucinations, periods of derangement and depression, severe abdominal pain, and seizures.

Salvador Dali, too, was considered “crazy,” and may have suffered from a personality disorder, according to researchers who used a computer program, with input from a variety of published sources.

However, there are many who believe that Dali’s eccentricities were primarily an act. He was so outlandish that it seemed intentional.

While Van Gogh was publicly to be considered unstable—at one point the townspeople even protested in the hopes that he would be incarcerated in an insane asylum—much of his insanity was detailed only in private letters.

Dali, on the other hand, wrote in his published autobiography that he bit off the head of a bat as a child, and developed an interest in necrophilia (but was later conveniently “cured” of it)—but none of those claims can be proven.

While Dali’s theatrics benefitted his career—possibly in an attempt to mimic the insanity that catapulted Van Gogh to fame after his suicide—Van Gogh hardly sold any of his artwork while alive.

New evidence at the Van Gogh museum—a letter from Dr. Felix Rey, who treated Van Gogh’s ear wound—reveals that the artist didn’t just cut off the earlobe as many have previously thought, but the entire left ear.

So while Salvator Dali might win the prize for the most eccentric artist, Van Gogh was, unfortunately, the most clinically disturbed.