Pattern as inspiration and mode of communication in the works of Van Gogh

Am J Psychoanal. 2009 Sep;69(3):238-62. doi: 10.1057/ajp.2009.15.


A close study of specific patterning in Van Gogh's drawings (revelatory because of their absence of his celebratory color) provides new insight into pattern as a direct expression of nonverbal meaning. A study of his articulation of pattern through form, plus a close reading of his writings about difficulties he encountered because of his unique vision, show how Van Gogh's creativity reflects a need to express the inexpressible that derives from an idiosyncratic way of perceiving self and the world. We apply critical theories of modern art as a manifestation of unconsciously expressed meaning and explications of differences between the experience of color versus form, and indices of how nonverbal meanings are noted and anchored. We conclude that Van Gogh's unique and personal perceptual style both served his developmental needs and exacerbated his distress, contributing both to his mental instability and his artistic greatness.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Color
  • Emotions
  • Famous Persons*
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Nonverbal Communication / psychology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*

Personal name as subject

  • Vincent Van Gogh