Shakespeare wrote three of his famous tragedies during turbulent times. He was no stranger to the task of plying his trade amid difficult conditions. He was working in London when the bubonic plague surfaced in 1592 and again in 1603, the latter a particularly lethal outbreak that left more than 30,000 city dwellers dead.

In 1606, as England was roiling from a near-assassination attempt on King James, the plague returned to wreak havoc on Londoners once again.

But Shakespeare knew how to navigate the bumpy terrain by this point, the threats of royal upheaval and a debilitating illness no obstacle to him completing three of his great tragedies – King LearMacbeth and Antony and Cleopatra – in that year alone.


Vincent Van Gogh

Plagued by psychiatric illness throughout his life, Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890. Evidence suggests that he had manic depression, a chronic mental illness thought affects many creative people. Although treatment with lithium carbonate is now available, the drug also dampens creative abilities.

Vincent ended up in the hospital, where he was treated by Dr Félix Rey, the assistant physician. Rey believed that Van Gogh was suffering from a form of epilepsy brought on in part by too much coffee and alcohol and too little food. However, he never made an official diagnosis. Sounds like a millenial's diet.

When Van Gogh got out of hospital in January 1889, with a white bandage covering the place where his left ear had been, he immediately went back to work in his house next to a cafe in the southern French town of Arles. A still life he painted that month looks like a determined attempt to hold on to the things of this world, to quell his inner turbulence by concentrating on the solid facts of his life. Around a sturdy wooden table he has laid out a symbolic array of the simple pillars of his existence. Four onions. A medical self-help book. A candle. The pipe and tobacco he found steadying. A letter from his brother Theo. A teapot. And one more thing: a large, emptied bottle of absinthe.

Has he drunk the absinthe since leaving hospital? Does its emptiness represent a promise to swear off the stuff from now on? The first thing to be said about this painting is that it is revolutionary. It is a new kind of art. The very idea that a collection of objects, painted with fiery brushstrokes in heightened luminous colours, with ridges of thick impasto in some places and bare canvas in others, can reveal the state of someone’s soul was utterly new. Van Gogh was its originator. In the months after this mostly self-taught Dutch artist in his mid 30s arrived in Arles in February 1888 he invented a new kind of art that would come to be called expressionism.



While painting the familiar grounds of his beloved home and garden in Giverney,  France, Monet's painting style shifted, as his eyesight failed. It became more dreamlike, a memory of the feeling more so. Brush stroke and lightness and darkness became more significant.

 In 1918, Monet wrote that he ''no longer perceived colors with the same intensity,'' and ''no longer painted light with the same accuracy.'' He described his ''wasted'' efforts: ''What I painted was more and more dark, more and more like an 'old picture.' '' 

By 1922, when he was pronounced blind, blues had disappeared from his paintings and he was forced to read the labels on tubes of paint to distinguish colors, Dr. Ravin wrote. He was encouraged by the French statesman Georges Clemenceau to undergo cataract surgery.

The first operation left him almost blind. ''It is to my great chagrin that I regret having had this fatal operation,'' he wrote to Dr. Charles Coutela six months later, when he realized that he would require further surgery. By this time his vision was somewhat restored with cataract glasses, but the artist saw everything too yellow in one eye and too blue in the other because of the difference in the way his eyes perceived color after only one cataract was removed. After his second operation, he painted with only one eye at a time, which accounted for a number of blue and yellow tinted paintings.



Monet eventually adapted to his vision with tinted, and a year before his death in 1925 he wrote that he was ''happily seeing everything again'' and ''working with ardor.''


One of the pioneers of abstract modern art, Wassily Kandinsky exploited the relationship between color and form to create an aesthetic experience that engaged the sight, sound, and emotions of the public.

Kandinsky is believed to have had synaesthesia, a harmless condition that allows a person to appreciate sounds, colours or words with two or more senses simultaneously. Synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes the brain to process data in the form of several senses at once. For example, a person with synesthesia may hear sounds while also seeing them as colorful swirls.

"He believed that total abstraction offered the possibility for profound, transcendental expression and that copying from nature only interfered with this process. Highly inspired to create art that communicated a universal sense of spirituality, he innovated a pictorial language that only loosely related to the outside world, but expressed volumes about the artist's inner experience. His visual vocabulary developed through three phases, shifting from his early, representational canvases and their divine symbolism to his rapturous and operatic compositions, to his late, geometric and biomorphic flat planes of color. Kandinsky's art and ideas inspired many generations of artists, from his students at the Bauhaus to the Abstract Expressionists after World War II."

Kandinsky argued that artistic experiences were all about feeling, and different colors affected mood. Yellow could disturb, while blue might make people feel good. Kandinsky's thoughts on color were similar to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's belief that different colors can convey certain emotions.

Kandinsky literally saw colors when he heard music, and heard music when he painted. ... He deployed color, line, shape, and texture to create a rhythmic visual experience that evoked an emotional response. Not surprisingly, Kandinsky gave many of his paintings musical titles, such as Composition or Improvisation.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath,  a poet who committed suicide, her second attempt, by putting her head in a gas oven. Now her life didn't begin like that... it as honestly a man's actions that drove her there. Her husband was cheating. However, it did begin very promising. Plath's importance in American history is derived from the literary excellence of her writing, and her works show the plight of mid-twentieth century women.

She is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry, she's a raving avenger of womanhood and innocence. A feminist poet, writing about women's rights before it was popular, throwing images and phrases into her poems, depicting everyday life.


Frida Khalo

A horrific accident changed the course of Frida's life. Always a romantic, her pain and beauty lays together on her canvas often expressed in work. After being struck by a street car, an iron handrail impaled her through her pelvis, as, she would later say, piercing “the way a sword pierces a bull.”

Pain from her injuries plagued Kahlo for the rest of her life. She had more than 30 additional surgeries, including one in which her back was re-broken and re-set. Kahlo turned this latest setback into an opportunity, artfully painting her body cast. Despite her increasing ill health, Kahlo and husband Rivera traveled widely, although their relationship was tested by mutual jealousy and infidelity.

Kahlo desperately hoped to give Rivera a child, but several pregnancies were medically terminated when doctors feared Kahlo’s life was at risk. Another pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage became the focus of one of Kahlo’s most well-known and harrowing paintings. “Henry Ford Hospital,” painted in 1932, shows a naked Kahlo in bed, with images of a snail (meant to represent her fertility problems and slowness to have a child), a fetus and her abdomen, attached to her body by umbilical cords. Twelve years later, in 1944, Kahlo painted “The Broken Column,” in which her chest is split open to reveal the metal and leatherback brace she frequently wore in the wake of the accident.

Kahlo continued to paint her intense self-portraits, many of which depicted her wearing traditional Mexican costumes and highlighted her prominent unibrow, for the rest of her life. She and Rivera divorced and later reconciled, but she was in failing health. In 1953, illness forced her to attend her first solo exhibition in an ambulance, and that same year, nearly 40 years after the bus accident, old wounds flared up again, leading to the amputation of a gangrenous right leg. Seemingly well aware that the end was near, she took to sketching images of angels and skeletons in her journal. She kept creating to the very end, when she died, at age 47.Leaving behind a lifetime of extraordinary, moving, and very human art. Viva la Frida.