Psychoanalytic aesthetics: the case of Miró and the 'child-like'

Salvi, Annalisa (2003) Psychoanalytic aesthetics: the case of Miró and the 'child-like'. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Miró's art is regularly characterised as 'child-like' in art historical literature. That is, his work is taken visually to resemble, or as sharing some of the characteristics (freshness of vision, spontaneity, emotional expressiveness, freedom from traditional illusionistic techniques) attributed to, the artistic productions of children. This analogy with child art
(exploited by Expressionists and others in the early years of the twentieth-century) dates in Miró's case to his involvement with Surrealism in the 1920s. It was understood as a more or less conscious intention to exploit the visual characteristics of the successive stages in a child's artistic development. In other words, it was one aspect of Surrealism's
engagement with 'primitivist' forms of expression, in which artists appropriated the aesthetic of children's drawings, tribal and folk artifacts, and the artistic productions of the mentally ill.

My discussion of Miró is supported by comparison with the work of two other artists, Klee and Chagall, who also borrowed from child art and whose production was likewise
associated with childhood by critical literature. Klee's work supports my contention that although Mirós painting bears a passing resemblance to children's drawings, a more
sustained analysis demonstrates that it is unlike anything that a child would actually produce. 'Child-likeness', generally a comment on form, becomes in Miró's case question of artistic content, relating to the development and constant recycling of a vocabulary of shapes largely derived from childhood memories. Comparison with Chagall, whose oeuvre was also thematically indebted to childhood memories, allows
one to put forward a psychoanalytically informed explanation of the infantile origins of the content that finds expression in art.

Miró's thematic 'child-like' content, from this point onwards, is used as a case study to effect the comparison between the theories of Freud (a major influence on Surrealism), and those of the Kleinian tradition within the British Object-Relations School of psychoanalysis, insofar as these have lent themselves to the discussion of art. Both approaches are developmental (Freud and Klein theorised adult psychology as a development of the thought processes of infancy and childhood), and for this reason have been preferred to the topographical and Lacanian orientation adopted in recent
applied psychoanalytic literature.

\Vhereas Freud's psychoanalysis of art concentrates on the unconscious processes and mechanisms by means of which the fantasy-distorted derivatives of repressed infantile
material emerge into consciousness and become the material of art, the Kleinian psychoanalytic aesthetic developed by Segal and Stokes focuses on the unconscious revelations underlying creativity and the phantasy content that finds expression at the level of the medium. Winnicott provides a (poetic) description of the experiences, rooted in childhood perceptual patterns, to which the production of art and its reception give rise.

Miró's own accounts of his creative procedures confirm that the unconscious infantile-derived thought processes, motivations and contents theorised by these authors are
in .... [?] operative in the production of art, whilst also making clear that creativity is determined by socio-cultural, therefore conscious (and, as such, psychoanalytically
unaccounted for) factors. Both the explanatory value and the principal methodological limitation of psychoanalytic aesthetics centre on these two final considerations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: B. > Theses
Item ID: 13521
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2015 16:46
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 02:41

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