The enigma of Čiurlionis's illness and its relationship to his creativity

Vladimir Lerner, Eliezer Witztum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Assumption regarding the relationship between creativity and mental disturbances has attracted academic and public interest from antiquity. Research performed in recent years, support these associations and show a disproportionately high rate of mental illnesses, especially bipolar disorder, in creative individuals. In this article, we give another example of this link by describing the life and works of a Lithuanian composer, painter, and poet Mikalojus Konstantinas Chiurlionis (1875-1911) (Lithuanian transcription - Čiurlionis). This relationship is demonstrated graphically, which enables to see a link between his mood fluctuations and quantity of Chiurlionis' works. Chiurlionis lived in the complex period with its turbulent whirl of changing trends in art doubtlessly influenced his art. Chiurlionis had synesthesia and he was one of the first who tried to join music and painting in a synthesis of the arts. Significant components of his work are related to Symbolism. Chiurlionis lived very short life - only 36 years, but during his life, he created over 200 musical works, and painted about 300 canvases. His compositions were romantic and nationalist in spirit, sometimes inspired by Lithuanian folklore and his best work is thought to be his "musical paintings". For many years, they were virtually unknown outside his motherland. While it was well-known that Chiurlionis died in a sanatorium for mental ill, almost nothing was written about his mental illness. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that the Chiurlionis' illness (bipolar affective disorder) and his creative output in music and paintings were connected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-52
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Creative Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015


  • Chiurlionis
  • affective disorders
  • artist
  • creativity
  • musician
  • poet
  • synaesthesia


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