Psychology and art, and the case of Cezanne -Pavel Machotka

Pavel Machotka is a UCSC emeritus Professor of Psychology continuing his research in his native land, the Czech Republic

Can psychology illuminate the nature of art? Years of research into this question tell us clearly that yes, it can. Many studies, some of which I conducted at UCSC, show that the kind of art we are attracted to depends on our personality, while others show that our personality guides the kind of art that we will produce. Art clearly serves our personal needs.

But does psychology explain great art? Only up to a point. In some artists' lives we can find early traumas, while in others we can find comments on their daily life in their art. Each finding, and many others like it, connects the art to the artist's life. But not all art, of any artist, is connected to their life. Can psychology explain the art that remains independent? And can it explain whether the art is great, or at least good, or altogether mediocre?

These are more complicated questions. The life and work of the great artist Cezanne is an excellent example. His landscapes, for example, show how closely his art depended on the appearance of things. (I will show my photographs of the sites that he painted.) Yet they are also great works of art, with careful attention to composition and color harmony, and especially to the brushstrokes by which the painting surface is unified. We can account for his dependence on the model - but not for his creative independence from it. In my talk, I will deal with this complexity, and conclude with my view of the role of psychology in understanding art.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at 7:30pm


Music Center Recital Hall
400 McHenry Road, Santa Cruz, California 95064

Cost

Free and open to the Santa Cruz community

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