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Robbins, M.D. (1969). On the Psychology of Artistic Creativity. Psychoanal. St. Child, 24:227-251.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 24:227-251

On the Psychology of Artistic Creativity

Michael D. Robbins, M.D.

This paper is an attempt to formulate the metapsychology of the creative process in a serious adolescent artist. Material from the first two years of his hospital-based intensive psychotherapy is presented and integrated with a review of the literature in an effort to understand the use this young artist has made of his unusual ability.


The psychoanalytic literature on artistic creativity is immense and will not be comprehensively reviewed here. It is easy to pass over the bulk of the literature which deals with the unique personality structure of various artists and attempts to find some reflection of their particular problems in their work, to which causal significance may or may not be imputed. The literature pertaining to the question of what makes a gifted person create art is more limited, and from it I shall select certain representative approaches: the work of Sigmund Freud, who was responsible for the subsequent interest of psychoanalysis in art; papers by authors whose interest in creativity relates to a more general interest in adolescent psychology; and the more recent contributions of Ernst Kris, based on ego psychology, and Phyllis Greenacre, whose orientation is somewhat at variance with that of Kris.

One of Freud's earliest contributions to the literature on creativity is his 1908 paper entitled "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming" in which he links the genesis of art to the adult's fantasy, which in turn is derived from infantile wishes.

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