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Freud’s Connection with Art

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian-born doctor, the founder of psychoanalysis. Essentially, Freud is a neurologist. He never has defined himself as an artist but he got in touch with art sometimes directly sometimes as a indirect.

Sigmund Freud

In 1908, Freud testified that he occasionally read Nietzsche, in addition he read Shakespeare in English throughout his life. Also, For Freud, it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology may have been derived in part from Shakespeare’s plays.

Friedrich Nietzsche
William Shakespeare

According to Freud, objects that are pragmatically useless can become an element that gives people pleasure through art. So, Freud actually thinks of art as a pleasing deception.

Freud viewed art from an optimistic point of view, seeing it basically as a harmless and benevolent illusion. (1)

He commented on the artist and the artwork in his researches Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood (1910) and The Moses of Michelangelo (1914). Hence, These works, which focus on the lives and works of the great masters of the Renaissance, can be called, in a way, the first examples of psychoanalytic art criticism. (2)

Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of His Childhood (1910)

Freud’s Effects on Art

Many modern artists like Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Man Ray benefited from Freud and Psychoanalysis in the works of but Freud’s attention and focus was on “classical art” rather than contemporary art. Consequently, He was interested in archeology and ancient artifacts. He set her sights on Rome and Ancient Greece. Even, Freud found modern art nonsense besides he stated he didn’t understand it.

Freud was an avid art collector. During his lifetime, he amassed an extensive archive of more than 2,500 antiquities from ancient civilizations around the world. He exhibited his collection in his home office in Vienna and later in London. The scope of his collection was so extensive that his London home was converted into the Freud Museum in 1986 to showcase his impressive archive to the world. (3)

Freud Museum, London
Freud’s writing desk, source:
Figurine of Isis and Horus source:
Balsamarium with satyr and maenad, source:


1. Freud S., New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis,1933

2. Aliçavuşoğlu E., Psikanaliz, Freud ve Sanat, 2012

3. Lesso R., The Impact of Sigmund Freud’s Theories on Art, May 25, 2020, The Collector

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