The life of the artist has had an interest for the public far above that aroused by other creative workers. In large measure this public prominence of the artist is due to dilettantes and amateurs who compensate for lack of genuine creative powers by a display of eccentricity in the name of artistic temperament. There is, however, a closer relationship between the general public and the artist than either the scientist or philosopher. The artist is largely dependent upon public favor and approval for his living, while his works play a not unimportant rôle in the life of the masses.
The scientist and philosopher touch us but indirectly, while the artist is an integral part of our habitual existence. He is an intimate member of our family. He visits us in our home and exerts an influence upon us in his books, paintings, music, while we visit him in his domicile in the art gallery, theater, and concert hall, and we encounter him regularly in our industrial and religious activities. Since he is so much part and parcel of our individual and social life we have a personal interest in him. But he is so different from the rest of us in his interests and activities as to appear freakish and abnormal. Our ways do not seem to be his ways, and he bothers and disturbs us. He is one of us, yet remains a stranger among us, attracting undue attention.
So we try to explain him by making of him either a divinity or a monster. In days gone by he was an outcast from decent society, today he is being turned into a super-man. He has been variously called a god and madman, above all human standards and beneath everything that is humanly decent, a spoiled child to be tolerated with a mixture of pity and scorn, and an irresponsible adult to be dealt with severely in his transgressions. What is lacking both on the part of his adorers and censors is an understanding of his real nature as a human being, of which his peculiar behavior is the outer expression. The peculiarities that have been attributed to him and which need examination are: that he is deficient in intelligence, in reasoning, but unduly emotional or temperamental; that he is weak in character in that he falls a ready victim to drink, drugs, and disease; that he is more mad than sane; that he is more of a child or woman than a man.
Let us inquire into each of these alleged traits of artistic genius in turn.