Does An Artist Need to Be Tragic to Succeed?

An alarming quote from Lana Del Rey in an interview for The Guardian back in June of 2014 found her asserting, “I wish I was dead already.” Alluding to her idols, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, Del Rey’s wistfulness over the freedom one can achieve through death poses the question: Does an artist need to be tragic to succeed?

Channeling deadness

Channeling deadness

Seeming to intuit that, yes, an artist does need to possess some sort of fatal flaw in order to be compelling to a mass audience, Lana Del Rey is a larger representation of the creator using his or her life as fodder for fans and scholars alike. Luring people in with a resonant tale inspired by true, doleful events is, indeed, usually the best way to generate substantial and long-lasting interest.

Edgar Allan Poe: another among the tragic writerly figures

Edgar Allan Poe: another among the tragic writerly figures

Among the ranks of great writers, the depressive, alcoholic likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Bukowski are amid the many tragic figures who met a destructive and grim end, and all for love and commitment to their art–and perhaps hatred for life (though, of course, Bukowski always found comfort in the company of women).

Bukowski: coping with alcohol

Bukowski: coping with alcohol

All the greatest painters and sculptors, too, have exemplified a life plagued by misery. From Rodin and Michelangelo to Van Gogh and Degas, the tendency toward loneliness and depression remains a constant theme of the formidable artist.

Degas grew more depressed in the 1880s after his eyesight started to worsen

Degas grew more depressed in the 1880s after his eyesight started to worsen

Where music is concerned, there is also no shortage of examples of affliction. Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake are among the numerous instances of deeply saddened musicians who couldn’t continue to carry on in this world. And so, to be quite frank, the tragic artist is, lamentably, the most bankable way to endure in the collective consciousness on an everlasting level.

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