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Weiss, J. (1949). Art and the Unconscious: By Lionel Goitein. New York: United Book Guild, 1948.. Psychoanal Q., 18:397-398.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:397-398

Art and the Unconscious: By Lionel Goitein. New York: United Book Guild, 1948.

Review by:
Joseph Weiss

In this book art is 'put on the couch' and analyzed as though it were a dream. Seventy pictures are reproduced in black and white on the left-hand pages with a description of their manifest content beneath them. The opposite page is devoted to 'analyzing' them.

Dr. Goitein has made a wide and interesting selection, including primitive statuary, old masters, various modern schools, cartoons, architecture. In his analyses he makes no use of what is known of the artist's life or personality, but uses only the manifest content of the art object. In a somewhat personal and technical style, Dr. Goitein, by the use of his own associations to the picture, deduces the unconscious fantasies, impulses, and attitudes of the artist. For instance, anal-sadistic impulses are seen disguised beneath a tranquil landscape by Cotman or in a social-protest etching by Goya. Though undoubtedly many readers will find the results convincing, the danger of this method (which in many cases is the only one available) is obvious. The same manifest content may mean different things to the artist, and to various 'analytic' observers.

Dr. Goitein's interest is not in developing a theory of æsthetics, but in gaining a deeper understanding of the individual art object; thus, although he discusses unconscious mechanisms in his introductory chapters, their application in the analyses of individual pictures is generally implied or taken for granted. He relies more on the manifest content than the form, technique, and style, though he does make some comments on the latter.

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