Therapeutic art concepts and practices in Britain and the United States (1937-1946)

Wiltshire, Imogen (2017). Therapeutic art concepts and practices in Britain and the United States (1937-1946). University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis provides the first analysis of occupational therapy and art therapy from an art historical viewpoint. Based on archival material, it examines how modern artists, art pedagogues, schools and museums theorised, implemented and publicised therapeutic art-making practices. It focuses on four case studies in Britain and the US (1937-1946): occupational therapy by László Moholy-Nagy at the School of Design, founded as the New Bauhaus (Chicago); art therapy by Arthur Segal (London and Oxford); Northfield Military Hospital (Birmingham); and The Arts in Therapy exhibition series at the Museum of Modern Art (New York). Elucidating the concepts, practices and display of therapeutic art across these institutions, this research presents new intersections between modern art and medicine. It contributes to the history of art, the history of healing, and the growing medical humanities concerned with their entanglement. Therapeutic approaches defined art as an experiential process, shifting emphasis away from objects, with focus on the psychological and physiological effects on makers rather than what they produced. Consequently, this thesis expands art historical remits by presenting narratives of art that are culturally, socially and politically situated but that predominantly concern ideas, processes and effects on individuals rather than objects, images and performances by them.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
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: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
E History America > E151 United States (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general


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