A Selection Of The Best Loneliness Art

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feeling isolated from other people can be a serious challenge to your sense of well-being. Sometimes, the only thing that may help can be a reminder that we’re not alone in our loneliness — that nearly everyone feels like they’re on their own sometimes. Seeing works of art inspired by the experience of solitude may help restore your sense of connection with humanity. However, viewing art may not always be enough to alleviate feelings of isolation. Therapy, whether in person or online, may provide the human empathy, support, and guidance that you deserve.

Getty/AnnaStills
You don’t have to go through life alone

Girl in the Woods by Vincent Van Gogh

Girl in the Woods generally depicts exactly what the title implies: a small girl standing in a forest. But that simple description may not capture the contrast between the huge, ancient trees and the tiny figure standing among them. She stands near the base of the largest one, facing away from it, too far away for the viewer to see any of the details of her expression. All we may receive is the sense of humanity dwarfed by the natural world, alone in a place we can never fully understand or explore. 

The painting can evoke the sense of loneliness many of us feel when we ponder our place in the universe. It may also be a commentary on the lonesomeness Van Gogh felt in his life as an artist — the girl holds what appears to be a paintbrush, hinting that she may be a stand-in for the painter himself.

The Solitude of the Soul y Lorado Taft

This sculpture depicts four figures around the sides of a block of marble from which they’ve only partially emerged. Although they lean on each other, clasp hands, and reach toward each other’s bodies, their eyes never meet. The physical matter they’re made of stands between them, hanging over their heads and forming barriers between their faces. It can be a haunting expression of the human condition, in which the inner lives of even those closest to us may remain a mystery. 

Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese

This landmark film from one of the most acclaimed artists in American cinema can be a cautionary tale about the dangers of isolation. It tells the story of Travis Bickle, a Vietnam veteran living alone in New York City, who gradually devolves into fantasies of violence as an escape from his life. Travis describes himself as “God’s lonely man,” and his solitary life generally prevents him from recognizing how irrational his perceptions of the world are becoming. The film can be a stark reminder of how important social bonds can be for mental health.

Two Human Beings (The Lonely Ones) by Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch’s work frequently delved into the concepts of loneliness, sorrow, anxiety, and despair. In Two Human Beings (The Lonely Ones), we can see a powerful depiction of the paradoxical way that we can sometimes feel alone, even in our relationships with others. There’s a gap between the people in the image; their backs are to the viewer, and the woman is not looking at the man. She’s staring out at the wide, empty sea, as though searching for something she’s missing here on shore.

Getty/Halfpoint Images

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks may remain one of the most iconic and well-known images of modern urban life. It depicts a well-lit diner late at night, seen from the outside. A few stragglers remain at the counter within, seemingly taking refuge amid a still, silent cityscape. They don’t appear to be conversing, just sitting quietly and passing the time. 

Research indicates that many people feel lonelier in dense cities, despite being surrounded by people. Nighthawks hints at one possible reason why: The urban landscape may constantly offer glimpses of other lives, seen through glass, that we will most likely never know or touch. 

Arthur Rimbaud in New York by David Wojnarowicz

In this photo series, David Wojnarowicz captures images of his friends in various locations around New York City, wearing paper cut-out masks of the bohemian poet Rimbaud. It may be meant to jog the audience into a recognition of the ignored, forgotten, and despised people living among them. 

Rimbaud’s face can act as a stand-in for the various ways that Wojnarowicz felt like an outsider: the tragic and violent experiences of his early years, his desire to escape conformity, and his homosexuality. These images may draw out the loneliness with which marginalized people of all kinds often struggle.

Prison Paintings 5 by Gülsün Karamustafa

As the title suggests, Karamustafa’s Prison Paintings were made in jail, during a six-month stretch in which she was held as a political prisoner by the Turkish government. All the works in this series typically depict everyday life among her fellow inmates, but Number 5 may be a particularly striking look at the way that solidarity and community can develop among people cut off from others. The women slumber in each other’s arms, one clutching a baby, but the barred window and bare lightbulb serve as stark reminders that they’re still shut away from the world at large. 

The Malady of Death: Monodrama with Jeanne Balibar by Haegue Yang

Contemporary artist Haegue Yang derives much of her inspiration from the sense of disconnection and alienation she feels as a person constantly traveling through a globalized world. The Malady of Death may be her adaptation of a novella by Marguerite Duras about the difficulty of finding connection and love with another person. 

In Yang’s adaptation, a woman reads the novella aloud while standing alone on a darkened stage, only sometimes revealed by a spotlight. Behind her, evocative images appear and disappear on a screen, including bedsheets, ocean waves, and a sleeping woman. The viewer can be left with a profound sense of the way that humans may seem to be adrift.

Melancholy by Constance Marie Charpentier

Sometimes, our sense of loneliness has little to do with our actual circumstances, and more to do with what’s happening inside us. Melancholy can be a vivid depiction of the way that depression may leave a person feeling alone. The downcast woman is the only image in the painting that’s clearly visible — the scenery is dark and muted, perhaps representing the way that depression can make it hard to find joy in the world around us. This experience may leave you feeling as though you’re isolated inside your own mind.

In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai

This evocative, atmospheric, and richly romantic film can offer a look at the deep hunger for human connection that people often feel in the midst of personal struggles. The movie generally revolves around a man and woman who live in the same building, but rarely interact until they discover that their spouses are having an affair. Brought together by their common alienation from the people they trusted, they begin to discover a deeper connection. Both find it difficult to acknowledge what they’re feeling, and the film portrays their struggle with the barriers between them.

My Bed by Tracy Ermin

Tracy Ermin sparked fierce debate throughout the art world when she made a gallery installation out of her unmade bed and the clutter surrounding it. Though many works of art present loneliness as something noble and romantic, My Bed may show the tangible reality of a prolonged bout of depression and self-imposed isolation. Crumpled tissues, empty liquor bottles, and stained clothing may testify to the reality of being cut off from others by psychological pain. 

Alone by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

This sketch is generally believed to have been made for one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings of sex workers in the Montmartre district of Paris, where he lived in relative solitude. He was generally known for capturing these women in everyday moments, showing them as real people rather than objects of desire or scorn. 

The woman pictured in Alone seems exhausted, but also relieved at the opportunity to drop all pretense during this brief moment by herself. 

The painting can offer a reminder that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely and miserable. Sometimes, it can be an opportunity to recharge and get to know yourself.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
You don’t have to go through life alone

Therapy may help with loneliness

Art can be a powerful way to find solace in loneliness. However, if you’re finding it difficult to cope with feelings of disconnection, you may want to seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy is often a fast and convenient way to connect with a therapist, and it may enable you to receive help even if you’re geographically isolated or have a disability that makes it hard to leave the house. This type of therapy can empower you to receive help from the location of your choice at a time that fits your schedule.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Receiving therapy online appears to be no different from attending sessions in person, at least in terms of effectiveness. Although more research may be needed regarding the efficacy of online therapy for feelings of loneliness, existing studies suggest that online and face-to-face therapy tend to have the same levels of efficacy in treating a variety of mental health disorders and concerns.

Takeaway

Loneliness can be a difficult experience, but it can also be a catalyst for incredible creativity. Many thought-provoking works of art have dealt with the reality of isolation, including masterful paintings, drawings, films, sculptures, and immersive installations. These artistic expressions of loneliness may help you feel a little bit more connected to your fellow human beings. For further connection and professional guidance as to how to overcome isolation, consider working with a therapist online or in person.
You're not alone with your loneliness
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