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Calvocoressi, F. (2014). Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed, Vol. I; Psychoanalytic Writings, Vol. II, edited by Philip Larratt-Smith, Violette Editions, 2012. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 4(2):204-207.

(2014). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 4(2):204-207

Book Reviews

Louise Bourgeois: The Return of the Repressed, Vol. I; Psychoanalytic Writings, Vol. II, edited by Philip Larratt-Smith, Violette Editions, 2012

Review by:
Francesca Calvocoressi

Psychoanalysis and artists have been uneasy companions in the twentieth century. Henry Moore, for example, explained to Huw Weldon in a BBC “Monitor” TV documentary in 1960:

Perhaps if I was psychoanalysed I might stop being a sculptor, I don't know, but anyhow I don't want to stop being a sculptor.

The Surrealists, on the other hand, had found liberation in their subject matter, via psychoanalytic theories, in delving into the unconscious, the world of dreams, taboos, and sexuality. André Bréton, who wrote the first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, felt that:

Under the pretence of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy; forbidden is any kind of search for truth, which is not in conformance with accepted practices. It was, apparently, by pure chance that a part of our mental world, which we pretended not to be concerned with any longer—and, in my opinion by far the most important part—has been brought back to light. For this we must give thanks to the discoveries of Sigmund Freud. (Bréton, 1924)

Automatism, the rejection of logic, and of the control of reason would become the central precept of the movement. If the Surrealists threw open the doors of perception and embraced psychoanalysis, the terrible losses and dislocations of two world wars resulted in trauma and severe emotional disturbance for many artists. The post-war movement of Abstract Expressionism in the US continued to adhere to some of the tenets of the European Surrealist movement, such as automatism, but to reinterpret them, in large-scale all-embracing paintings of dynamic movement and strong colour. They were familiar with Freud and Jung, and spoke of art in relation to the unconscious. Of the leading Abstract Expressionists, however, Mark Rothko committed suicide by cutting his wrists aged sixty-six, Ashile Gorky hanged himself, aged forty-four, while Jackson Pollock died of an alcohol-related car crash, aged forty-four. Although Willem de Kooning lived to be over ninety, he was in and out of rehab for much of his life.

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