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Painter Robert Genn on Art and Happiness

Robert GennIn an issue of his newsletter, artist Robert Genn notes that in his book “Against Happiness” writer Eric Wilson “disparages our current love affair with putting on a happy face.”

Wilson thinks that with our “feel good” culture and the “widespread use of happy drugs, everybody’s trying to be cheerful and there are no decent dollops of melancholy and sadness. When this happens, art becomes bland, unchallenging and redundant.”

Genn notes, “Dr. Thomas Svolos of the department of Psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine thinks Wilson is right. ‘When you’re melancholy, you tend to step back and examine your life,’ he says. ‘That kind of questioning is essential for creativity.’

“What these guys are talking about is a redefinition of happiness,” Genn continues, “and I think they’re onto something.

“Life’s not about getting free of pain, but rather finding happiness through service to some process with links to a higher ideal.

“A state of thoughtful melancholy and sensitivity breeds an elevated creativity and a more profound happiness. Here are a few of my own keys:

Work alone and be your own motivator.

Take time for private wandering and nature’s gifts.

Dig around and explore purposefully.

Serve others as well as your own passions.

Continued in his article Art and Happiness.

Book: Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric G. Wilson.

Also see Genn’s site The Painter’s Keys for his publications.

The image is from his book: The Painter’s Keys: A Seminar With Robert Genn.

Related article of mine: Too much pursuit of happiness?
One of many quotes: Musician Alanis Morissette points out, “We’re taught to be ashamed of confusion, anger, fear and sadness, and to me they’re of equal value as happiness, excitement and inspiration.”


Painter Robert Genn on Art and Happiness

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2014). Painter Robert Genn on Art and Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Feb 2014
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