Until recently the psychoanalysis of art was restricted to dead artists. In the hands of Freud, retrospective analysis was an extension of the 19th-century idea of art as a means of contact with great minds. For all the distressing symptoms that he detected in Leonardo, Freud's view of artists was essentially old-fashioned and ennobling. Subsequent psychoanalysts possessed neither Freud's tact nor his sense of the continuum of culture, with the result that crude post-mortems on absent heads flourished. One victim, Vincent van Gogh, was analyzed at different times in terms of syphilitic dementia and schizophrenia, of "affective epilepsy" and "epileptic psychosis," aggravated respectively by Oedipal conflict and addiction. No wonder Artaud was driven to proclaim "the good mental health of Van Gogh who, during his whole life in this world we live in, burnt only one hand in addition to cutting off his left ear." Later psychoanalysts have shown themselves to be more sophisticated in terms of art and more sensitive to the human pain of illness. (Martha Wolfenstein, "Goya's Dining Room," The Psychoanalytic Review, XXXV .) Validation, however, remains illusory.
In the United States, though not in Europe, we have a situation in which attendance on a psychologist, of one school or another, is common, not to say statistically normal. With such an input of patients, artists must be showing up regularly and, as it happens, the general level of art appreciation has risen, including that of doctors. We ought, therefore, to have the beginning of a literature on the psychoanalysis of live artists, or artists personally known to the analysts who write about them. One sign of this are the so-called "Psychoanalytic Drawings" by Jackson Pollock. (C. L. Wysuph, Jackson Pollock: Psychoanalytic Drawings [Horizon Press, 1970].)____________________