Great artists are celebrated for their ability to create work that appeals to others on a grand scale, but what it is exactly that allows for this effect has been the subject of much debate among theoretical psychologists. To fully account for the unifying power of highly lauded art is to identify what in the great artist makes him able to tap into the emotions of many others through the medium he works in. Three prominent theorists of the 20th century ? Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Rudolf Arnheim ? each have distinct theories about what exactly motivates the artist to create, and beyond that what grants his creation its mysterious potency. It is interesting to see the areas where they disagree, and of course it is vital to differentiate their schools of thought in order to acquire a more complete understanding of the width of the range of speculation on this issue. Where they agree, however, is equally interesting and allows us some somewhat surprising truths as to the perception through time of artists and their uniting gift.
[...] The difference is where they believe this visionary's unconscious sight is focused. Freud believes that the artist is a visionary who is afforded unparalleled glances of his own buried psyche, that without realizing it he is able to conjure up depictions of the complexes and urges that define him. Jung believes that the artist is a visionary who is concerned with the bridging of epochs namely, bridging the epoch of his existence to the beginning stages of humanity. Arnheim, however, believes that the artist is a visionary who [...]
[...] The major point Jung makes is that the psychologist should be concerned with the visionary form of artwork. Jung believes that this category of writing is a direct expression of a primeval human conception of “archetypes” present in all people. Archetypes are images (or “possibilities of ideas” that Jung explains are essential to the human experience and present in every human's unconscious thought. He sees the great artist who creates visionary work as being able to express in his epoch's terms the most basic set of shared mental presences in existence. [...]
[...] Along the way it mutates the art to adhere to the appropriate meaning beyond the consciousness of the artist, until the work is finished and the artist become able to see what he meant” 135). In addition to these remarks, there are two vital points that bear fleshing out. The first point is Arnheim's views on Freud's approach to a psychology of art and Jung's idea of archetypes; the second point is Arheim's theory on why exactly visual thinking works in other words, how does perception allow formal decisions to take on meaningful importance in a work of visual art? [...]
[...] Therefore, through battling Freud, Arnheim puts forth the idea that what was seen by the psychoanalysts as the artistic obscuration through symbols of other taboo items and drives is actually not an obscuration at all it is the visual representation of things and ideas in a formal setting, a type of communication achieved by humans through an inherent ability to grasp connotations from visual input. Arnheim credits the Freudian school with one accomplishment done in the service of art: they succeeded in reminding people that "in a work of art every element, whether it pertain to perceptual form or subject matter, is symbolic, that is, represents something beyond its particular self" 219). [...]
[...] Freud and Jung agree on the point that the generative impulses behind the art are not wholly unique to the artist, but while Freud believes that this is only because of the common nature of complexes, Jung argues that is not a disease” 71) and cannot be treated as such. Arnheim's viewpoint is somewhat related to primary process in that he imagines visual art as highly related to an infantile perception where everything visual is literal, i.e. something hidden is nonexistent, etc. [...]
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