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Wylie, M.L. Wylie, H.W., Jr. (1989). The Creative Relationship of Internal and External Determinants in the Life of an Artist. Ann. Psychoanal., 17:73-128.

(1989). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 17:73-128

II Applied Psychoanalysis

The Creative Relationship of Internal and External Determinants in the Life of an Artist

Mavis L. Wylie, Ph.D. and Harold W. Wylie, Jr., M.D.

One widely accepted notion among musicians, writers, artists, and others involved with the arts is that psychiatric treatment interferes with creativity and short-circuits, if not permanently interrupts, the artist's connection to the source of his creativity. “Keine angst, keine kunst.” No anxiety, no art.

We have become curious about the persistence of this notion, particularly as we have studied the art and writings of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Cherishing the pain of psychic conflict for the inspiration it brought him, Munch wrote, “All art … must be brought forward with one's heart's blood” (Munch, The Violet Book, p. 29). “Life's anxiety is a necessity. Without anxiety and illness, I would have been like a ship without a rudder” (Schreiner, 1946p. 21). We believe, however, that after a period of psychiatric treatment, which dramatically alleviated his torment, Munch experienced no reduction in creative power. Nonetheless, dispute continues about the effects of the psychiatric treatment on his art. The debate centers on the marked changes in Munch's work subsequent to an extended period of residential care.

Munch's advocates (Guenther, 1976; Stang, 1979; Eggum, 1982) claim, as did Munch himself, that after treatment the quality of his creativity remained unaffected. His critics (Messer, 1973; Neve, 1974; Schjeldahl, 1974; Werner, 1979; Heller, 1984) suggest that with the cure, Munch lost his artistic vigor.

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