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date: 03 July 2020


A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art

Ian Chilvers,

John Glaves-Smith

Branch of psychology pioneered by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). Although there are a number of schools and versions they are unified by the idea that human actions are influenced by the unconscious as well as the conscious mind. Freud held that unconscious motivations were the result of impulses, especially sexual ones, repressed by society. This obviously has great significance for the understanding of art. No longer does the interpreter need to be bound by the ‘artist's intention’, at least as consciously expressed by that artist. Taste in art, as well, might be determined by matters which the spectator might not be able to or wish to articulate. Psychoanalysis has had enormous influence on the practice of art, although not necessarily in ways in which Freud might have approved. He saw himself ultimately as a doctor concerned to improve the quality of life for an individual patient. Artists, on the other hand, have seen psychoanalysis as a source of imagery or even as a critique of a repressive society. Such was the interest of the ... ...

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