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Hamilton, J.W. (2001). “Nothing Specific, Nothing Human”: The Life And Work Of Piet Mondrian. Psychoanal. Rev., 88(3):337-367.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Review, 88(3):337-367

“Nothing Specific, Nothing Human”: The Life And Work Of Piet Mondrian

James W. Hamilton, M.D.

The pathogenicity of childhood primal scene observation has been a controversial issue in psychoanalytic thinking. Greenacre (1973) believed that the witnessing of parental intercourse as well as the birth of a sibling or a miscarriage in the first years can thwart drive development, evoking primitive denial along with isolation of affect, rationalization, and displacement to bolster repression as a lifelong method of dealing with such early trauma. This defensive constellation promotes a defective sense of reality and, in certain instances, the formation of an “illusory wall” that reduces external stimuli and the risk of losing control of libidinal and aggressive impulses.

In support of these concepts, Greenacre cited the life and work of the painter Piet Mondrian as well as her own analytic cases and that of the Wolf Man. Because (1) Mondrian was so intent on keeping emotion entirely out of his art in order to achieve a pure form of abstraction with just primary colors confined to rectangular shapes devoid of objects of any kind, and (2) he led a rather solitary, ascetic life devoted to his painting and writing, had no close personal relationships, and was unusually sensitive to movement and noise, Greenacre concluded that these traits and attitudes originated in multiple primal scene exposure.

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