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March 11, 1988

Alzheimer's Disease: Unskilled Vulgarity Decays Into Stunning Artistic Genius

Author Affiliations

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano, Switzerland

JAMA. 1988;259(10):1495. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720100017013

To the Editor.  —In the recent article by Drs Cummings and Zarit,1 the reproductions that are supposed to illustrate the progressive intellectual decay of the artist show in fact a progression toward better pictorial quality, if not toward genius.Figure 1 in the article, painted near the time of onset of Alzheimer's disease, is a vulgar, unskilled amateur painting with gross errors in perspective and nauseating colors.Figure 2, painted seven years after the onset of disease, is the work of a genius, recalling the best of Van Gogh.Figure 4, completed at the nadir of his Alzheimer's dementia, could compete with the best attainments of modern art.This leads to one question: Are our contemporary artists collectively suffering from advanced Alzheimer's or from another kind of dementia?