The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Too often, it seems, an artist's disability affects his or her reputation to the extent that it overshadows the appreciation of their work. Such was often the case, for example, with Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, Frida Kahlo, and Horace Pippin—to mention only a few of the more obvious instances. While certain disabilities did have some effect on their work, limiting travel and accessibility, for example, or contributing to preference for one type of subject over another, or even to the physical action of wielding the brush (one thinks of Pippen), there is no indication that the talent is diminished. The real disability, in fact, would seem to lie with the viewer rather than with the artist. Understandably, tragic life-stories are compelling, but the work of art itself is the story the artist wishes the viewer to hear. Moreover, as too often happens, even to imply an artist is good in spite of a hardship or other handicap is patronizing at best, demeaning at worst.
Southgate MT. Dr Péan Operating. JAMA. 2007;297(12):1291. doi:10.1001/jama.297.12.1291