In my experience, yes.
Of course, it depends on many things. There are all kind of depressions and, maybe, when you are at the latest stage, when nothing counts any more and you just want to curl in the fetal position and hope to die, well, maybe then art wouldn’t do the trick…
It depends, also, if you are just an art amateur or an art creator (no matter if you are any good, if you are famous or not). Just looking at paintings in a book or in a museum wouldn’t do the trick either, even in light depression cases, probably.
But if you are a creator, it will, most of the time, even in hard cases. I don’t know if it’s the same thing as in Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death counterbalancing themselves. You know, they say the passion of lovers being exacerbated by the presence of Death or a mortal danger… Could be. Creation and depression, love and death…
Anyway, when you create art (and mind you, the word “art” has lots – sometimes too many – meanings, … carpentry could be an art if you put passion in it…and they talk about the art of cooking..), when you do something with your hands and eyes and heart, it changes something in the chemical balance (or INbalance) of your brain. The chemistry of your brain really changes. And depression, sadness, melancholia (the old, middle age name for depression; as in the above Melencolia of Albrecht Durer) fades away. At least for a while. And if you persist creating it will fade away for good. That’s my experience, at least.
Here it is, my latest creation (except for a commissioned portret): it looks sad, melancholical, maybe. But I am not.
I cannot end this post without citing (again) Graham Greene and his essential words (for me, at least, essential; they guided me in time of trouble, in times when I was Waiting for the Miracle to Come...) :
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.”
(“Ways of Escape” , Graham Greene’s autobiography; In fact, Graham Greene ended this phrase by citing himself Auden: “Man needs escape as he needs deep sleep’)
Escape or not, it works. Create something (write, compose, paint etc, etc.) and your depression will fade away… In my experience, at least. But about this, and about famous cases, like Vincent Van Gogh’s, another time…