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History of Art Psychology

1880 — 1950

One of the earliest to integrate psychology with art history was Heinrich Wölfflin (1864 – 1945), a Swiss art critic and historian, whose dissertation Prolegomena zu einer Psychologie der Architektur (1886) attempted to show that architecture could be understood from a purely psychological (as opposed to a historical-progressivist) point of view.

Another important figure in the development of art psychology was Wilhelm Worringer, who provided some of the earliest theoretical justification for expressionist art.

Numerous artists in the twentieth century began to be influenced by the psychological argument, including Naum Gabo, Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky. The French adventurer and film theorist André Malraux was also interested in the topic and wrote the book La Psychologie de l'Art (1947-9).

1950 — present

Though the disciplinary foundations of art psychology were first developed in Germany, there were soon advocates, in psychology, the arts or in philosophy, pursuing their own variants in the USSR, England (Clive Bell and Herbert Read), France (André Malraux, Jean-Paul Weber).

In the US, the philosophical premises of art psychology were strengthened in the work of John Dewey. His Art as Experience was published in 1934, and was the basis for significant revisions in teaching practices whether in the kindergarten or in the university. Manuel Barkan, head of the Arts Education School of Fine and Applied Arts at Ohio State University, and one of the many pedagogues influenced by the writings of Dewey, explains in his book, The Foundations of Art Education (1955), that the aesthetic education of children prepares the child for a life in a complex democracy. Dewey himself played a seminal role in setting up the program of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, which became famous for its attempt to integrate art into the classroom experience.

The growth of art psychology between 1950 and 1970 also coincided with the expansion of art history and museum programs. The popularity of Gestalt psychology in the 1950s added further weight to the discipline. The seminal work was Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality (1951) that was co-authored by Fritz Perls, Paul Goodman, and Ralph Hefferline. The writings of Rudolf Arnheim (born 1904) were also particularly influential during this period. His Toward a Psychology of Art (Berkeley: University of California Press) was published in 1966. Art therapy drew on many of the lessons of art psychology and tried to implement them in the context of ego repair. Marketing also began to draw on the lessons of art psychology in the layout of stores as well as in the placement and design of commercial goods.

Art psychology, generally speaking, was at odds with the principles of Freudian psychoanalysis with many art psychologists critiquing, what they interpreted as, its reductivism. The writings of Carl Jung, had a favorable reception among art psychologists given his optimistic portrayal of the role of art and his belief that the contents of the personal unconscious and, more particularly, the collective unconscious, could be accessed by art and other forms of cultural expression.

By the 1970s, the centrality of art psychology in academy began to fade. Artists became more interested in psychoanalysis and feminism and architects in phenomenology and the writings of Wittgenstein, Lyotard and Derrida. As for art and architectural historians, they critiqued psychology for being anti-contextual and culturally naive. Erwin Panofsky, who had a tremendous impact on the shape of art history in the US, argued that historians should focus less on what is seen and more on what was thought. Today, psychology still plays an important role in art discourse, though mainly in the field of art appreciation.

Material from Wikipedia.

 
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