Most of the popular artworks marked as masterpieces reflect grief and sufferings felt by the artist. Predominantly, art enthusiasts have found these artworks more engaging and creative as compared to the ones with simpler themes. A fine example is Paul Gauguin’s finest artwork made after the death of his beloved daughter -Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?- “I believe that this canvas not only surpasses all my previous work, but that I will never do anything better or even like it”.- as quoted by the artist himself.
We gain insight into the artist’s experiences– a dark themed painting awakens and links our emotional selves to the creator and the subject. It’s similar to how we enjoy watching a tragic movie, we empathise and weep for the fictional characters. Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits evoke such strong emotional connection, she beautifully expressed the constant physical pain she had all her life due to an accident which resulted in thirty-five operations.
Broken and incomplete is always more interesting and intriguing– our inquisitive mind is naturally drawn towards an imperfect and complex composition as compared to a typically common one. It’s same as how an anti-hero or a flawed bad boy, in a romantic novel is more interesting than a conventional boring character. We note this theory, in the paintings made by Picasso during his ‘Blue Period’, they are grief-laden and immensely complex, art historian’s state that these are some of his most creative and powerful artworks. During this time, the artist was sympathetic to the plight of the downtrodden and painted many canvases depicting the miseries of the poor, the ill, and those cast out of society.
Sadness is a stronger emotion than happiness – grief depicted in an artwork compels us to confront our feelings such as failure, loss and disappointments. For some their distressing experiences in comparison seem less negative and so paradoxically a sorrowful painting works as a healing agent. On the flip side, the ones who see a faithful reflection of their experiences form a strong bond with the painting. ‘The Scream’ made by Edvard Munch knew as the Mona Lisa of Modern Art is based on his actual experience while on a walk, after his two companions, seen in the background, had left him. The artist explained- “I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature, it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked. This became The Scream.”
At the end of the day, some art collectors just find a dark themed artwork more aesthetically striking and appealing than others. It’s purely because of their taste and preference, without any explanation as to why.