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Krüger, S. (2014). The Legend of the Artist: Family Romance and Führer Myth. Am. Imago, 71(1):29-51.

(2014). American Imago, 71(1):29-51

The Legend of the Artist: Family Romance and Führer Myth

Steffen Krüger


In this paper I will develop a line of thought from my book on the multidisciplinary scholar Ernst Kris (1900-1957). Kris started his career as an art historian of the Vienna School, one of the birthplaces of art history as a contemporary academic discipline. When he met Sigmund Freud in the 1920s, he had already built a reputation as the foremost expert in applied arts—mainly in coins, cameos and sculptures, bronzes and casts of the late Renaissance era (for a biographical overview see Krüger, 2011, and Gombrich, 1984; for Kris's work as an art historian and art psychologist, see MacGregor, 1989, and Röske, 2001). As a consequence of Sigmund Freud's growing influence on Kris, he became interested in psychoanalysis and completed his analytic training in 1927. His crucial psychoanalytic writings from the 1930s, in which he applied analytic theory to art historical problems, were translated into English and included in the volume Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art, first published in 1952. This volume remains a standard text in applied psychoanalysis and art psychology. Today Kris is best known for his work on creativity, in which he developed his formula of “regression in the service of the ego” (1934/1936), and in psychoanalytic circles for his collaborations with Heinz Hartmann and Rudolph Loewenstein in their attempt to outline a coherent ego psychological theory of psychoanalysis.1 Finally, Lacanians will be familiar with Kris for his late work in psychoanalytic methodology, which Lacan attacked polemically (Fink, 2004; Krüger, 2012).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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