Part of the Series 'Dialogues on Contemporary Issues' Hosted by the British Psycho-Analytical Society in the Summer Term of 1988

By Dedman, Rachel | Journal of Art Historiography, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Part of the Series 'Dialogues on Contemporary Issues' Hosted by the British Psycho-Analytical Society in the Summer Term of 1988


Dedman, Rachel, Journal of Art Historiography


Speakers:

Professor Joseph Sandler

Professor Sir Ernst Gombrich

Sandler I suppose I ought to ask if you are all sitting comfortably, then we can begin. The arrangement today is rather different from the arrangements in the previous Dialogues, in that, in self-defence, I have dispensed with the chairman and will be, I think, rather more in the role of interviewer, than someone who might have unwelcomed questions thrust at him.

We are going to talk today about psychoanalysis and art, but before going onto that I want to first welcome you all in the name of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and secondly to introduce Professor Sir Ernst Gombrich, who is with us today.

Professor Gombrich was born and studied in Vienna and came to this country, I believe, in 1936 and until the War worked at the Warburg Institute. During the War - and this is something which I think is of great interest to us - he worked with the BBC monitoring service and had to listen to broadcasts from abroad with.. .free-floating attention presumably...?

Gombrich No!

Sandler No?

Gombrich With great attention!

Sandler With great attention. Which of course we advise against in our profession [laughter from the audience]. But during that time he became very interested in problems of perception and in the processes involved in making sense out of what was heard. Well, after the War, leaving the BBC monitoring service, Professor Gombrich progressed from being a research fellow at the Warburg, (I think he spent a great deal of time at the Warburg), and became then Director. He was also appointed Professor of the History of the Classical Tradition in London University and during this time spent time as a Slade Professor at Oxford and at Cambridge and many, many other places and retired eventually. He is now Emeritus, [since] 1976 from the University, (the University throws one out willy nilly at a certain point).

I won't list his numerous honours and honorary degrees and appointments and invitations all over the world, it would take us the whole evening: the prizes and fellowships, the numerous publications in both the history and psychology of art and art appreciation. Certainly in the view of many, and I would very much subscribe to this, he is the greatest living art historian and it this a rare opportunity for us.

I think that there are a number of factors which made Professor Gombrich interested in psychoanalysis, some of them I hope you will tell us about, I would hope that being in the monitoring service of the BBC contributed to it, but I do know that there were other, perhaps more important, forces operating. In 1953 the British Society was honoured by having an Ernest Jones Lecture - a beautiful piece of work, which I would recommend to everyone - from Professor Gombrich, and I think one of the best Ernest Jones Lectures we have had.

Well that is the introduction and now I have the embarrassing task of introducing myself, which of course puts me into conflict, I have to say. I will solve this by saying simply that I am Freud Memorial Professor in the University of London, my Chair is situated at University College London; I am a training analyst at the British Psychoanalytical Society. And one of the reasons - of a number of reasons -1 am here today is that I suggested that we invite Professor Gombrich for the Dialogue assuming that he wouldn't accept the invitation, and in that way I could escape the request that was put to me [audience laughter]. Another is, though, that I have had, in that I trained first as a psychologist, a great interest in perception, in the processes of perception, and this of course is an area of interest which I believe that we share. I do want to say that the views that I will put forward in the discussion won't be shared by all my colleagues, but I hope possibly by some of them. There are differences in points of view, and certainly in the application of psychoanalysis to the area which we are going to discuss. …

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