Freud and Art

Is art a substitute for gratification? According to Freud . . .

“There is, in fact, a path from phantasy back again to reality and that is – art. The artist has also an introverted disposition and has not far to go to become neurotic. He is one who is urged on by instinctive needs which are too clamorous; he longs to attain to honour, power, riches, fame and the love of women; but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications. So, like any other unsatisfied longing, he turns away from reality and transfers all his interest and all his libido too, on to the creation of his wishes in life. There must be many factors in combination to prevent this becoming the whole outcome of his development; it is well known how often artists in particular suffer from partial inhibition of their capacities through neurosis. Probably their constitution is endowed with a powerful capacity for sublimation and with a certain flexibility in the repressions determining the conflict. He is not the only one who has a life of phantasy; the intermediate world of phantasy is sanctioned by a general human consent and every hungry soul looks to it for comfort and consolation. But to those who are not artists, the gratification that can be drawn from the springs of phantasy is very limited . . . a true artist has more at his disposal.”

Freud, 1917

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