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Esman, A.H. (1979). The Nature of the Artistic Gift. Am. Imago, 36(4):305-312.

(1979). American Imago, 36(4):305-312

The Nature of the Artistic Gift

Aaron H. Esman

Maynard Solomon's Beethoven has been the subject of extensive critical response and acclaim. It is uncommonly well written. Moreover, it is a rare and effective synthesis of sound musical scholarship, meticulous biographical research, perceptive social history, carefully balanced psychological speculation, and brilliant “detective” work (on the mystery of the Immortal Beloved).

Beethoven is a rewarding subject for the psychobiographer: he is virtually the prototype of the tormented artist whose life reflects the troubled nature of his times and is clearly reflected in the character of his work. Solomon is a knowing Virgil, leading the reader through the maze of Beethoven's family relationships, unsuccessful amatory adventures, and political enthusiasms, and Solomon's ventures into psychoanalytic interpretation are, by and large, both modest and convincing.

I should like to address myself here to the ways in which this exemplary book contributes to our understanding of the so-called “creative process” and, in particular, of the nature of the artistic gift. As has been pointed out many times, psychoanalysts and psychoanalytically-informed scholars have struggled with these issues repeatedly since Freud first ventured to do so in his Leonardo study, and many important contributions have emerged from their efforts—most notably in recent years in the work of Greenacre (1957), Kris (1952), Niederland (1976), Gay (1976), Noy (1978, 1979), Rothenberg (1976), and, especially, Gedo (1970).


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