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The violent brushstroke : contributions from the independent school of British psychoanalysis to the art of Willem de Kooning.

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This thesis begins with a consideration of the contributions of modem and contemporary ideas to the field of aesthetics. Out of these contributions, selected theorists from the Independent School of British Psychoanalysis are applied as a contemporary understanding of the practice and intent of Modernist art as seen in the work of the New York School of painters and specifically to the paintings 'On the Theme of Woman' by Willem de Kooning exhibited in 1953. More recent psychoanalytic formulations of aggression, self and subjectivity are put forward as a reinterpretation of the issues surrounding these selected works. The main focus here is on the role of aggression which is reformulated as a search for subjectivity and separateness. In offering these reinterpretations, this thesis draws on the theories of Donald Winnicott and Christopher Bollas. Bollas' notion of the 'transformational object', the work of the unconscious, which he terms 'cracking up' and the idiom of the self in process, is used as a basis for a newer understanding of Modernist art's methodology and interest in the unconscious and self. The final chapter applies Winnicott's concepts of maternal functions and 'object usage' to de Kooning's 1953 Woman paintings. This reinterpretation is offered as an alternative to the more negative interpretations that prevailed at the time of this exhibition which emphasised a negative approach to the female as subject. Instead, it is argued that these works offered the artist a creative arena in which to explore psychological struggles involving self and other in a safe and adaptive way.


Thesis (M. Fine Art)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2005.


Psychoanalysis and art., Art, Modern--20th century., Theses--Fine art.