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Esman, A.H. (1975). Richard Huelsenbeck. Am. Imago, 32(4):359-365.

(1975). American Imago, 32(4):359-365

Richard Huelsenbeck

Aaron H. Esman, M.D.

Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974) was that rara avis, a man who lived in two worlds and achieved distinction in both. He was of that class of physician-poets that flourished in Europe in the years before World War II, a class represented in the United States by William Carlos Williams. As a founder of the Dada movement in Zurich he was one of that band of artistic revolutionaries who helped to define the shape of 20th century culture. Transplanted to the United States, he re-created himself as Charles R. Hulbeck, M.D., psychiatrist, follower of Karen Homey and of the existential school of psychoanalysis. In that new identity, he was honored with the Ludwig Binswanger Award in 1969.

This publication of his newly-translated memoirs and some occasional pieces represents, therefore, a significant contribution to the literature of our time. For the cultural historian it is a crucial first-hand document of the history of Dada and its meaning for the contemporary world. It also contains many penetrating personal and critical observations about some of the major figures in 20th century art. For the psychoanalyst, Huelsenbeck is able, as have few others, to bring to the study of the psychology of the “creative process” both a sophisticated and informed intelligence and an insight born of personal experience of creative work.

As his editor Huelsenbeck made the fortunate choice of Hans Kleinschmidt, a psychiatrist and art collector whose European background and education permitted him an empathic resonance with his subject. Hence I am obliged to deal with the ideas of both; their mutual interest in the psychoanalysis of the artist leads them to some common, some divergent thoughts. At bottom, however, they share the view that a psychoanalytic perspective on the “creative process” can illuminate both the work of the artist and his social role.

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