Undergraduate Seminar: Psychologies of Art
Wednesday | 2:00 - 5:00pm
"Psychologies of Art” will map important psychological, psychoanalytical, and pathological patterns in art, in the history of art, and in art theory from the late Middle Ages to the present day.
In the first third we will trace themes such as art and empathy, the psychological aspects of Christian art and iconography, the emotional implications of the maniera greca / maniera latina conflict, and the representation of emotions and psychological states between the middle ages and the early modern age.
The second third of the course will be focused on specific figures of depression and madness (such as Dante’s Count Ugolino in literature and in the visual arts, the emotional charge of figures in Giotto, the gender psychology of Botticelli’s paintings, Dürer’s Melancholia and her sisters, Michelangelo and the distancing self-analysis in some of his writings, and the rewriting of those themes in European art and thought (Lessing, Burke, Reynolds, Lavater, Warburg, Klibansky, Panofsky, Saxl).
The last third of the class prepares the issues of modernity and the “Ornament of the Masses” (Kracauer) through the question of fetishism, the new nineteenth-century concepts of childhood (Walter Benjamin), the history of art therapy and Gestalt psychology, Freud’s readings of Michelangelo’s works, Gombrich’s psychological perspectives, and the self-therapeutic works of Frida Kahlo.
Depending on students’ interests and disciplinary backgrounds, the acts of diagnostic early photography (Lombroso) will lead, on the one hand, to approaches in modern theory to images of suffering and the dead (Susan Sontag, Georges Didi-Huberman), and to the images, memory, and memorialization of modern catastrophes and their mass psychology on the other hand (Gerhard Richter’s September). On a parallel track to the last third of the class, the history of wars and military history painting, later military and war photography, offers views into the psychological impact through image-making of the American Civil War, Colonial Wars in British India, the avant-garde artists and poets in their relationship to World War One, Picasso’s iconographies of World War Two, and more recent examples from journalism as response to the undefeated act of reading in ruins (Cadava). Twentieth-century examples for student presentations can include advertisement and the atomic age as well as students’ takes on the psychologies of the contemporary art market in relation to examples from the historical phases studied in the seminar.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical area (E) and Chronological period (II) or (III), based on the topic of the final research paper or project.