10 Great Artists That Ended Their Own Lives

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A Brief History

On July 27, 1890, painter Vincent van Gogh shot himself, dying 2 days later.  Commemorated in the Don McLean song, Vincent, van Gogh was a tormented person.  It seems that great painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, actors and other creative people are often beset by their own demons that leads them to self-destruction.  Here we list 10 of those sad cases, representing a variety of art forms.  

Digging Deeper

10. Mary Kay Bergman, 1999.

The voices of South Park’s Ms. Cartman (Cartman’s mom) and Wendy, she also was the official voice of Snow White for Disney.  Bergman was the voice of Timmy Turner in The Fairly Odd Parents cartoons, as well.  She ended her life with a gunshot to the head, leaving suicide notes that were never made public.

9.  Peg Entwhistle, 1932.

Perhaps before your time, this movie and stage actress was depressed about her sinking career, causing her to jump off the “H” of the Hollywood sign.  In an ironic twist of fate, the next day a letter arrived for her offering a role as a woman that commits suicide.

8.  Anton Furst, 1991.

Another occupation requiring keen artistic appreciation and expression is designing movie sets.  That is what Furst did, notably for the films Full Metal Jacket and Batman (1989 version, including Gotham City and the Batmobile).  Furst also designed the motif for Planet Hollywood.  He jumped off the 8th floor of a parking garage.

7.  Charles Boyer, 1978.

His famous French accent immortalized by the cartoon skunk, Pepe LePew, Boyer was a most unlikely leading man.  He was short, had a belly, was balding, but was somehow still a sex symbol.  He killed himself by overdose of sleeping pills 2 days after his wife’s death.  Cracked fact:  His son died in 1965 while playing Russian Roulette. 

6.  Virginia Woolf, 1941.

Yes, the Virginia Woolf from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  She was an English writer of novels and essays.  Depressed, suffering from mental illness throughout her life, and upset over the destruction of her (London) home in World War II, she filled her pockets with rocks and jumped in a river, drowning herself.

5.  Michael Hutchence, 1997.

This Australian musician was a singer and songwriter for the group, INXS.  He hanged himself with his belt.

4.  Richard Jeni, 2007.

A gifted and hilarious comedian that made the saying “Thank you, Captain Obvious” famous, Jeni shot himself in the face.  He was reportedly depressed and paranoid.

3.  Kurt Cobain, 1994.

Known primarily as the lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana, Cobain was also the primary songwriter for the group.  Selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, 75million of Cobain’s albums have been sold world wide.  Depressed and dealing with heroin addiction, Cobain had a difficult time coping with fame and fortune, leading him to shooting himself in the head, only 27 years old.

2.  Ernest Hemmingway, 1961.

The great American writer, wounded World War I veteran and war correspondent had suffered injuries in 2 plane crashes on the same trip to Africa in 1952, leaving him with nagging pain.  Depressed and alcoholic, he shot himself in the head with a shotgun at his Idaho home.  His wife insisted the death was accidental.  Cracked fact: His grand-daughter Margaux, model and actress, took her own life with pills in 1996.

1.  Vincent van Gogh, 1890.

He “took his life as lovers often do.”  This great post-impressionist artist was so tortured he cut off his own ear and sent it to the woman he loved.  Not surprisingly, the gift was not appreciated.

Question for students (and subscribers): Who else would you memorialize on this list?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please read…

Brown, Ron.  Art of Suicide (Picturing History).  Reaktion Books, 2004.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.