Art and Mourning : The role of creativity in healing trauma and loss book cover
1st Edition

Art and Mourning
The role of creativity in healing trauma and loss

ISBN 9781138886940
Published March 10, 2016 by Routledge
208 Pages 16 Color & 37 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Art and Mourning explores the relationship between creativity and the work of self-mourning in the lives of 20th century artists and thinkers. The role of artistic and creative endeavours is well-known within psychoanalytic circles in helping to heal in the face of personal loss, trauma, and mourning. 

In this book, Esther Dreifuss-Kattan, a psychoanalyst, art therapist and artist - analyses the work of major modernist and contemporary artists and thinkers through a psychoanalytic lens. In coming to terms with their own mortality, figures like Albert Einstein, Louise Bourgeois, Paul Klee, Eva Hesse and others were able to access previously unknown reserves of creative energy in their late works, as well as a new healing experience of time outside of the continuous temporality of everyday life.

Dreifuss-Kattan explores what we can learn about using the creative process to face and work through traumatic and painful experiences of loss. Art and Mourning will inspire psychoanalysts and psychotherapists to understand the power of artistic expression in transforming loss and traumas into perseverance, survival and gain.

Art and Mourning offers a new perspective on trauma and will appeal to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, psychologists, clinical social workers and mental health workers, as well as artists and art historians.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Art and Mourning  1. Alberto Giacometti, Louise Bourgeois, Rainer Maria Rilke Time and Timelessness in Art and Mourning  2. Paul Klee Psychic Improvisations in the Shadow of Death  3. Dinah Gottlibova Painting Trauma—Painting History  4. Ferdinand Hodler From the Vertical of Life to the Horizontal of Death  5. Eva Hesse A Transition from the Edge of Loss to the Containment of Emptiness  6. Lucian Freud The Permeable Membrane 7. Rene Magritte  Tracing the Lost Object  8. Albert Einstein Creativity and Intimacy

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Esther Dreifuss-Kattan, Ph.D., is a senior faculty member at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, a psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, a clinical specialist at the Simm/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, and a practicing artist and curator of art.


"Art and Mourning is a remarkable achievement. The author uses her own psychoanalytic training, her work with terminally ill patients, and as an artist herself with an art historian’s eye, to create new links between an artist’s own personal story and their creative output, and in the process creates a wonderful and illuminating book. Dreifuss-Kattan uses Sigmund Freud’s own writings of psychobiographies as a starting point. Through a thoughtful focus on the lives, and particular traumatic experiences, of a series of artists, from Paul Klee to the Holocaust survivor Dina Gottlibova to Freud’s own grandson Lucian Freud, she creates something entirely new and deeply satisfying.Using her extensive, insightful knowledge and experience, Dreifuss-Kattan has written an important book that sheds light on the harrowing effects of trauma and loss, and the role that art can play in the healing process."-Carol Seigel, Director, Freud Museum, London.

"Dreifuss-Kattan does a brilliant job of placing Freud and Modernism in the cultural and biographic context of 20th Century art, abstraction, and Expressionism. The book demonstrates how art can transcend the past in an attempt to secure a balanced future. Dreifuss-Kattan draws on her clinical experience and a familiarity with a wide range of artistic, cultural and scientific figures, including Paul Klee, Lucian Freud, Rene Magritte, and Albert Einstein. Art and Mourning is an aesthetic experience. She writes with compassion, clarity and immediacy. The illustrations are sumptuous, powerful, and telling. The book is a "must read" for art lovers, cultural historians, mental health professionals, and readers interested in loss, mourning, and the dynamics of creativity."-Peter Loewenberg, Professor Emeritus, UCLA, European Intellectual and Cultural History and Former Dean, New Center for Psychoanalysis.

"In Art and Mourning, Dreifuss-Kattan asks - how can the conflict between the wish to survive and the realization of death be overcome? In answer to this question she demonstrates that a creative approach to loss has inspired some of the most important art work of our time. By critically examining the works of Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, Eva Hesse and others, the author shares a fresh art historical perspective with great empathy towards the artists and her readers."-Suzanne Isken, Executive Director of the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

"Art and Mourning presents an entirely unique view of the intricate relationship between art, time, death, trauma and mourning. Grounded in individual psycho-biographies of a diverse range of artists including Paul Klee, Eva Hesse, Lucian Freud, Renee Magritte, Ferdinand Hodler and Diana Gottlibova, the chapters trace specific forms through which individual artists process and transform trauma and mourning in their work. Theoretically informed by a sophisticated use of psychoanalytic theory as well as larger philosophical and artistic considerations, Art and Mourning is one of the most interesting books about art I have read in the past years and opens up an entirely new perspective on the rich body of work on trauma and mourning."-Gabriele Schwab, Chancellor's Professor of Comparative Literature, Faculty Associate of Anthropology and Theory and Culture, University of California Irvine, author of Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma.

"Art and Mourning is a powerful and timely contribution to our field, especially for understanding the role of creativity in healing grief, trauma, and loss, whether in situations of terminal illness, suicide, or catastrophe such as in relation to the Holocaust. Art-making and creative expression in response to pain, physical, and psychological, are expressive therapies which function not only as respite, distraction, and reverie but are also mysteriously reparative, able to change our sense of control over past, present, and future time." Sandra L. Bertman, Research Professor in Palliative Care, Boston College, Distinguished Professor of Thanatology and Arts, National Center for Death Education