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How Freud\’s psychoanalysis impacted Surrealism

April 25, On This Day

Freud’s impact on the history of art


Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud opened his practice at Rathausstrasse 7 in Vienna over well a century ago today, on April 25, 1886.

Freud was an avid art collector and in his life, amassed a vast archive of over 2,500 antiquities from ancient civilisations around the world, displayed at his home office first in Vienna, and then in London. The London home was even converted into the Freud Museum in 1986.


But aside from personal interest, his psychoanalytical theories had a lasting influence on the early 20th century avant-garde. His techniques of dream analysis and free association had a particularly profound impact on the international Surrealist movement. His iconic text, The Interpretation of Dreams, 1899, was particularly important to Surrealist artists.


Connecting with Freud’s belief that dreams could reveal hidden meanings about our innermost desires, which were often erotic or sexualised, the Surrealists discovered and pioneered a wide range of techniques, unleashing the wondrously complex, unconscious world of dreams into their art.

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These ideas, in turn, shaped the intuitive art of the American Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.


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