Those who have studied Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) are well aware that he had an eccentric personality and unstable moods, committing suicide at the age of 37. Less known is that he suffered from depression and that there are bipolar aspects to his history. Two noted episodes of depression were followed by sustained periods of increasingly high energy and enthusiasm, first as an evangelist and then as an artist. Some of his greatest works came from the manic stages of his life.
A noted educator of bipolar disorder, having that condition himself, once told me, “When I’m depressed, I wish I were dead; when I’m manic, everyone else wishes I were dead.” There’s a lot of truth to his joke. Van Gogh was insufferable when in his manic stages and morose when depressed.