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The new science of psychoanalysis inspires artists to paint from their imaginations




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The theories of Sigmund Freud were intended primarily for the medical world, but they also had an important impact on many artists, who used them to create images to suggest the inner workings of the human mind.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, stressed the importance of exploring childhood memories and the unconscious mind, believing that these could provide the key to identifying repressed desires and alleviating neuroses. He developed a number of methods for probing the unconscious, most notably by looking for the hidden meaning in dreams, and using the technique of free association.

Freud's radical ideas and insights inevitably affected the work of artists, and particularly those in the Surrealist movement. Andre Breton, the author of the Surrealist manifesto, visited Freud in Vienna in 1921. He became fascinated by the creative possibilities of releasing the unconscious mind and he hoped that artists would merge "the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality." Freud used dream images as a means of decoding past experience, while for Breton the dream was the experience. The Surrealists experimented with "automatic" art, trying to suppress conscious control over the hand, while drawing or painting. They hoped this would enable the unconscious mind to take over, as in the psychoanalyst's technique of free association. They also tried to tap into what they saw as non-rational sources of imagery by studying the art of children and the mentally disturbed.

Of all the Surrealists, Salvador Dali derived the most from Freud. He read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams as a student, hailing it as "one of the capital discoveries of my life." He devised a special technique for creating his

 

23 The Persistence of Memory

Salvador Dali, 1931


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