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Herbert, S. (1922). The Unconscious Root of Aesthetic Taste. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 3:47-49.

(1922). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 3:47-49

The Unconscious Root of Aesthetic Taste

S. Herbert

Psycho-analysis has made it evident that the source of artistic inspiration lies in the unconscious, the material worked up by the artist being his own deeper self, which finds expression in his creation as a projection of himself. Pfister has further shown that drawings may have unconscious symbolical meanings, quite apart from their pictorial value. But it is possible to go a step further still. It would seem that artistic taste in general is based—at least to a large extent—on unconscious associations that find a symbolic expression in conscious aesthetic predilections.

This comes out neatly in the following cases, which have come under the writer's notice during the course of psycho-analysis. In each instance aesthetic valuation was dependent entirely upon an unconscious complex.

Case 1. Violent dislike of yellow

Immediate association: mustard; further with mustard: slimy, 'mashy'—dislike of 'mashy' food, and finally—diarrhoea. As a matter of fact, the patient had a strong coprophilic complex, of which the most obvious symptom was frequent attacks of nervous diarrhoea.

Case 2. Excessive delight in yellow

The patient, a homosexual, loves to wear ties with yellow or orange in them, lives in a room with yellow wall-paper, etc.

Immediate association with yellow: his mother's hair, which was yellow, and of which she was extremely proud. The patient, like all homosexuals, passed through a period of strong fixation on his mother. Further association with yellow: the yellow colour of the anus (in light-haired boys). Patient has a strong coprophilic complex with pederastic phantasies.


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