Painting as psychotherapy: Arthur Segal’s Painting School for Professionals and Non-Professionals (1937-1944)

Wiltshire, Imogen (2013). Painting as psychotherapy: Arthur Segal’s Painting School for Professionals and Non-Professionals (1937-1944). University of Birmingham. M.Phil.

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Arthur Segal (1875-1944), an émigré artist from Nazi Germany, taught painting as a form of psychotherapy at his Painting School for Professionals and Non-Professionals (founded in London, 1937). Using extensive and hitherto unexamined archival material, this thesis provides the first analysis of Segal’s practices and theories, contextualised within the field of contemporary psychoanalysis in which he operated. Segal’s institution was unique; no other contemporary art school in Britain used painting as psychotherapy. Influential psychoanalysts and psychologists referred patients to the school for treatment and attended classes to learn his therapeutic methods. Notably, Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, amongst others, officially supported the artist’s British work permit. However, Segal’s understanding was not predicated on psychoanalysis and his primary concern was teaching students to develop visual ability and to paint using his system of formalist principles, in which he considered psychotherapeutic effect to be inherent. Accordingly, this thesis explores nuances in approaches to painting as psychological treatment in Britain between 1937 and 1944, arguing that contemporary psychoanalysts shared Segal’s understanding that art could facilitate psychological stability, but reached this position via different trajectories. This investigation also locates Segal as a pioneer of art therapy; his practices impacted on institutional and professionalised schemes developed in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: N Fine Arts > ND Painting


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