Creativity is an important human quality upon which many achievements of humankind are based. Defined as the ability to produce something that is novel and useful or meaningful, it is difficult to operationalize for research. This text provides an overview of the historical and cultural context of this research. The assumption that creativity is related to psychiatric vulnerability dates back to antiquity. The modern interest in the subject stems from the romantic era and gained a scientific aura in the 19th century. In the 20th century, a further entanglement of creativity and psychopathology came about through the influence of patient artists on regular art. Psychometric, psychodiagnostic and genetic research supports a connection between creativity and psychiatric illness within the bipolar-psychotic continuum, with schizotypy/thymotypy as prototypes of creativity-related disorders. Evolutionary hypotheses link the schizophrenia paradox to a survival advantage through enhanced creative ability. The relevance of scientific research in this complex and heterogeneous area can be increased if creativity and psychopathology are further operationalized and if underlying art concepts are made explicit and placed in a broader cultural context. There is a continuing need for meaningful definitions and measures, as well as a multidisciplinary collaboration.