The Turbulent Mind: Madness, Moods and Melancholy in the Art of the Nineteenth Century

Ghent, Museum of Fine Arts, 16-17 May 2014

In collaboration with the Research Platform XIX and the European Society for Nineteenth-Century Art

With the support of
the Research Foundation - Flanders, Flemish Art Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History (OSK), Ghent University - Faculty of Arts and Philosophy

Organising committee: Jan Dirk Baetens (Radboud University, Nijmegen), Koen Brosens (KU Leuven), Rachel Esner (University of Amsterdam), Bruno Fornari (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent), Jenny Reynaerts (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Johan De Smet (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent), Marjan Sterckx (Ghent University) and Cathérine Verleysen (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent)

Scientific committee: Werner Adriaenssens (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Maite van Dijk (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam), Mayken Jonkman (RKD, The Hague), Herwig Todts (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp), Francisca Vandepitte (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels), Filip Vermeylen (Erasmus University, Rotterdam) and Catherine de Zegher (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent)

On 7 May 1824, Eugène Delacroix wrote in his diary: “I do not care for reasonable painting at all. I can see that my turbulent mind needs agitation, needs to free itself, to try a hundred different things before reaching the goal whose tyrannous call everywhere torments me. (...) If I am not quivering like a snake in the hands of Pythoness, I am cold; I must recognize it and submit to it; and to do so is happiness.”

In these lines, Delacroix evoked the age-old theme of the mad artist, tormented but divinely inspired, balancing on the verge of insanity and genius. Delacroix’s interest in the intersection of art and madness was hardly an isolated phenomenon. The rise of romanticism saw an exploding interest in the irrational, the disturbed, the insane, and its potential to liberate the arts, the mind, and even the world at large from the rigid chains of reason.


On the occasion of the Théodore Géricault exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, the museum joins forces with the Research Platform XIX and the European Society for Nineteenth-Century to organise a two-day conference to explore the theme of madness and art in the nineteenth century, a time when artists first deliberately turned for inspiration to the mentally deviant and fully developed the idea of art as an expression of the emotional self. The conference brings together international specialists in the field and deals with both the myth of the artistic temperament and representations of madness, moods or melancholy.

More information:

Jan Dirk Baetens, Radboud University Nijmegen:

Cathérine Verleysen, Museum of Fine Arts Ghent:



Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent


Hofbouwlaan 28

9000 Ghent – Belgium



€ 40 (students € 25)

Includes coffee breaks and lunch

Max. registrations: 100



Email to (mentioning your institutional affiliation), and transfer of the registration fee to:

AGB Kunsten en Design – Botermarkt 1 – B-9000 Ghent – Belgium

IBAN BE11 0910 1974 1448


Mentioning name of participant and ‘The Turbulent Mind’

Confirmation of registration takes place only after receipt of the conference fee.



English / Français

Théodore Géricault, Portrait of a Kleptomaniac, ca. 1820-1824
© Museum of Fine Arts Ghent


Théodore Géricault, Madman-Kidnapper, 1819- 20 / 1822-23

© Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield,
Massachusetts, The James Phillip Gray Collection