Artistic creativity is presently considered to be a multidimensional phenomenon that unfolds over time and is in constant conversation with the social and historical context of the artists, as well as their personal life experiences. This article adopts a narrative perspective and explores Vincent van Gogh’s understanding of the constructs of creativity as reflected in his letters to his brother Theo, friends, and other family members. To inquire into van Gogh’s correspondence, narrative thematic analysis was employed. Findings highlight the artist’s constructs around creativity, which seem to depict elements of both modern and post-modern views of creativity. Major themes include creativity as (a) a developmental, dynamic learning process characterized by dedication and persistence; (b) a relational process in the context of people and nature; (c) an embodied action; (d) an oscillation between asceticism and socio-cultural participation, (e) suffering, and (f) a larger-than-life force. With this study, we join the conversation of scholars around recent developments in the field of creativity, calling for a variety of perspectives and methodological approaches to this complex and multifaceted construct. Moreover, we hope to move beyond the ‘mad genius’ stereotype and myths around psychopathology and artistic creativity, as exemplified in the present analysis of van Gogh’s correspondence.


artistic creativity, narrativity, narrative thematic analysis, relational, embodiment, Vincent van Gogh’s letters, qualitative inquiry, sociocultural

Author Bio(s)

Antigoni Apostolopoulou is a Psychology PhD student and member of the Centre for Qualitative Research at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. Her interests include qualitative inquiry, narrative analysis, artistic creativity, and arts-based research. Please direct correspondence to anapo@psych.uoa.gr.

Philia Issari, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, founder, and Director of the Centre for Qualitative Research at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the European Network of Qualitative Inquiry, member of the TAOS Institute Associates Council, and the TAOS Relational Research Coordinating Team. Her interests include narrative constructionist, dialogic, collaborative, and social justice ideas, narrative analysis, visual and arts-based research. Please direct correspondence to issariph@psych.uoa.gr.

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Antigoni Apostolopoulou https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5592-5882

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