Artist Archetype

Learn all about the artist archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Creator archetype.

What is the Artist Archetype?

The artist archetype is the ultimate creative personality. With a love of art in all its forms – be it painting, sculpture, fashion, music, dance and so on – the archetypal artist lives to create.

The artist is a very sensory being – enjoying experiencing the world around them through sight, sound, touch, feel and taste – and at core is very connected with the earth, the universe and their spiritual side.

They see beauty in the smallest things and enjoy abstract concepts and ideas.

Artist Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • With their intuitive side dominant, the artist can often be disorganized and unmethodical, or at least in appearance to others.
  • They struggle to remain grounded, getting carried away by the ideas and creative spirit constantly running through them.
  • The artist can be a child-like, playful individual, one who loses all sense of time and for whom hours can pass like minutes as they get lost in their creativity and imagination.
  • For other, more grounded archetypal artists they may tend towards compulsive, ritualistic behaviour.

The troubled or tortured artist

Archetypal artists can be troubled by self-doubt. Their tendency towards beginning many tasks or projects but having trouble in completing them, as well as seeking perfection but never finding it in their creations, can lead them to doubt their abilities and become self-deprecating.

They may struggle to create in reality the image that they seek to create in their head. When they do create to their satisfaction they may struggle to find an outlet that places value on that work in the real world – for example, they may find it difficult to sell their pieces.

The combination of these factors can mean that the archetypal artist sinks into depression, feeling that they lack value.

Artist Archetype Examples

A strong example of the archetypal artist is that of Vincent Van Gogh. Now recognised as a unique talent in the history of art whose work sells for millions of dollars, during his own lifetime Van Gogh struggled to gain recognition or maintain a living for himself. He sank into repeated bouts of deep depression and ultimately committed suicide.

Artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn and John Constable suffered similarly.

Examples of the artist archetype in film, TV and literature include Jamie Foxx’s Oscar winning depiction of Ray Charles in the film Ray, Colin Firth’s depiction of Dutch artist Jan Vermeer in The Girl with the Pearl Earring and F Murray Abraham’s Oscar winning turn as composer Mozart in Amadeus.

Further Reading

Further reading on the artist archetype includes:

  • Edvard Munch: Archetypes – by Paloma Alarco (Author), Patricia Berman (Author), Jon-Ove Steihaug (Author), Edvard Munch
  • Turner – A Life – by James Hamilton
  • VINCENT VAN GOGH: A Tortured Artist. The Entire Life Story – by The History Hour
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