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The Hidden Order of Art: A Study in the Psychology of Artistic Imagination

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

From the Preface: The argument of this book ranges from highly theoretical speculations to highly topical problems of modern art and practical hints for the art teacher, and it is most unlikely that I... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Changed my perceptions of Beethoven!

Here's the Fine Arts taken from a profound psychoanalytical viewpoint. If you're a Freudian philistine, then this book will be arduous for you. However, if you've read your 12 volumes and pondered over "The Scream" by Munch, then this book will enrich your personal interpretations of modern art. Timeless classic that you'll not be able to put down. My favorite tidbit, the spider and Thanatos.

an unusual look at perception and creativity

The author of this book, who died in 1966, was an art student in Vienna and later lectured in art in England. He wrote the book in the sixties, when the Gestalt theory of perception was very much in vogue. His view of truly creative perception, however, is very different from the Gestalt view. He maintains that Gestalt perception is analytic in nature, since part of Gestalt theory focuses on how we separate a figure from its background in order to give meaning to what we see. Accordingly, it demands a certain maturity in the human brain's development, and only begins to be used by children around the age of eight. Citing research papers on development and perception, Ehrenzweig argues that younger children and artists use what he terms "undifferentiated perception" in perceiving the world--this form of perception is holistic and non-hierarchical. It makes no distinction between figure and ground, or between main subject and minor subject. He believes that on an unconscious level, we are all continuously scanning the environment in this way. However, only small children and some adults are open to the information thus gained. One example he uses of how an adult uses non-differentiated perception is a chess master who is able to plot several moves ahead. Since each potential move has several possible subsequent moves, the permutations of possibilities inherent in a few moves ahead are truly daunting, and the use of one's analytic ability to evaluate them all would require more time than is available. Ehrenzweig maintains that the chess master does not evaluate a series of moves in an analytical manner, but rather uses non-differentiated perception, which allows many more computations to be carried out on a subconscious level. His arguments are compelling, and after cultivating undifferentiated perception myself, and raising young children who did seem to use it quite naturally, I was convinced that he was on to something. I've had this book since 1988 and still refer to it when I'm thinking or writing about issues in perception, creativity, or consciousness. However, there does not seem to have been much written about this topic in the scientific journals in the years since the book was published. Not being trained in psychology or perception, I cannot comment on why this is so. Nevertheless, the book has changed the way that I experience and think about my own mind. Moreover, it has helped me greatly in my creative projects, as well as in picking up information from the environment that later turns out to be quite useful.
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