Request PDF on ResearchGate | Arnheim, Gestalt and art: A psychological theory | When one hears the words, the “psychology of art,” one is likely to think of the. Jul 19, PDF | On Jan 1, , Amy Ione and others published Arnheim, Gestalt and Art: A Psychological Theory (review). May 24, Not content to simply summarize Arnheim’s theory, however, Arnheim, Art, and Gestalt goes on to enrich (and occasionally question) Arnheim’s.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Arnheim, Gestalt and Art: In placing it on the internet, I have taken the opportunity to correct some careless errors. The pagination remains the same. All arh are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifi- cally those of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, broadcasting, reproduction by photocopying machines or similar means, and storage in data banks.

The publisher can give no guarantee for all the information contai- ned in this book. The use of registered names, trademarks, etc. Camera ready by author Printing: Because of his great productivity we have been psychologicak to hear the latest words of wisdom from this remar- kable nonegenarian, almost up to the present day. But while Arnheim the personality is always intriguing, his system risks being left behind. Alt- hough Arnheim has remained in remarkable contact with younger scho- lars around the world, his ideas have risked alienation from their basic gestalt basis.

This book is arnhsim presentation of the whole unified Arnheim through the lens of a living, breathing Gestalt psychology. But Arnheim, himself, never attempted to provide a general psychology of art. Nor, it seems, did he presume he ought to. As much as that may have been true then, it is much less true now.

Arnheim has by now written on every subject of the psychology of art and a general approach may be said to exist, if not in one place. This work is an attempt to bring into a single coherent statement this theory. It gave me the suspicion that Art and Visual Perception could then be abstracted into such a form.

I began describing my scheme to Arnheim and he reacted with interest, and surprise. The result is what I like to believe to be two high- ly complementary ventures.

This book began as the labor of an overambitious youngster, in- spired by the gentle words of a retired sage-like figure in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am very grateful to Prof. Arnheim for the generosity he sho- wed me then, and over the ensuing years, providing me with a priceless experience of mentoring.

I brought an early draft of the book to maturity under the encou- ragment of Tiziano Agostini, Howard Gruber, Kendall Walton and Wolfgang Wildgen, as well as Alan Gilchrist and John Ceraso, the only two teachers of psychology I have ever had.

I wish to thank them all but especially Tiziano Agostini and Wolfgang Wildgen for their steadfast support over many years. To my beloved wife Louise, who has cheerfully come to accept the presence of Arnheim in our lives, I dedicate this book with thanks. As we address Arnheim and his writings today, we are faced with the problem of the exposition of his theories, which has never been attempted, and the other problem of their defense, which is really not possible without some sense of the former problem.

The very structure of this book is an implicit ordering of Arnheim’s thought. It attempts to order this thought, however, in terms of basic psy- chology. That is, it seeks to work its way down, ever more specifi- cally, from problems of general psychology, the problem of ex- pression central to perception of works of art, to individual sense modalities that explain them.

It is impossible, however, to rest content with a mere expo- sition of Arnheim’s positions. But once this has begun we have to take account of the Gestalt psychology contem- porary to Arnheim and ultimately that developing up until yester- day. I find it impossible to discuss Arnheim’s views of perception without thinking of contemporary developments in perception, especially as proposed by European scientists working in the gestalt tradition.


This is not only true because one familiar with the work naturally sees the relationship but also because many dismiss Arn- heim simply because they regard Gestalt psychology to be wrong, outdated or irrelevant. I will amply show, in the following chapters, both Arnheim’s synthetic position and the ways it is bolstered and amplified in contemporary gestalt-style theory. For the time being, however, it is worthwhile to sketch the attraction of the gestalt ideal in the first place, one to which Arnheim contributed, but to which he was also attracted.

But the most exciting thing to Arnheim was the contempo- rary promise in the sciences of his day. It is not a matter of imposing order on nature or escaping in our minds an irrational outer world, rather, the ways our minds work is precisely due to the principles that order nature.

More specifically, Gestaltists hold to a variety of doctrines that are appealing, and for which they have consistently found ex- perimental support. There is obviously the famous gestalt approach to perception, about which much more will be said.

This has wide ranging ramifications for Gestaltists who have used ideas of perceptual or- ganization well beyond perception. Much more than mere perception, an image of humanity attaches to ordered perception.

Verstegen, I.(2005). Arnheim, Gestalt and Art: A Psychological Theory

We perceive the bounty afforded by some things and the lack missing in others. The need felt by a helpless child is a command to help. Even in those famous cases which Arnheim’s colleague Solomon Asch psychologucal, in which thheory group gangs up on an individual and tells them that an obviously longer line wrt actually shorter, that person reacts ration- ally, trying hard to reconcile their basic trust in interpersonal com- munication with the facts before their eyes. It is too easy to invoke an irrationalist model of human motivation until we consider what the consequences of our own status as scientists, subject to the same foibles.

In fact, we soon discover that such irra- tionalism is not as rampant as we think and it is much more inter- esting and representative of the real world to consider the balance of objective input and personal getsalt that propel us. There is no strong gestalt movement today in social psy- chology but numerous studies throughout the field show a consis- tency with gestalt interests and give further impetus to the image of humanity propounded by the Gestaltists.

These works confirm in a larger sense what I wish to confirm for Arnheim and perception.

The gestalt school has a necessary scientific mes- sage to import that uniquely solves many important problems. Unfortunately, as in the case of social psychology, the aims of Gestalt psychology have been misunderstood in perception. The most common response is ignorance. The hopeful starts of the ge- stalt school were not quantifiable, it is argued, to make a lasting impression on the field, which had to wait for the cognitive revolu- tion. A more positive interpretation has been offered by David Murray, in his recent book, Gestalt Psychology and the Cognitive Revolution He argues that many principles championed by the cognitive revolution, including cognitive schemas, organization and prototypes, were first discovered by gestalt psychologists.

While often true, this interpretation fails to account for the lack of recognition of Gestaltism by the pioneers of Cognitive Psy- chology.

In fact, the scientism or positivism of Cognitive psychol- ogy set it apart from the aims of Gestalt psychology, and this very quality has more in common with psychollgical spirit of Behaviorism that Cognitivism is universally considered to have replaced. Osychological skepti- cal interpretations of Cognitivism have emerged from the Gestalt camp Vicario, ; Henle,not least from Arnheim.

The need for control, prediction and immediate operationalization of contemporary psychology is alien to the aims of Gestalt psychol- ogy. Now is probably the first time that an adequate defense of Gestaltism has been able to emerge.

After the sometimes- curmudgeonly defenses of Gestalt positions by Arnheim and oth- x, a new generation with a new objectivity has emerged to hon- estly examine some of the main precepts and assumptions of psy- chology and its theoretical underpinnings.


Unfortunately, psychological thinking on art has bifurcated into a technical and often unenlightening perceptualism Solso, ; Zeki, and a speculative Freudianism. Normally, little more is accomplished than pointing out perceptual mechanisms or illusions in actual works of art. There is a new interest in looking at questions the way Arnheim proposed, and a new conviction that he and Gestalt psy- chology were on the right track. To this conviction this book is addressed.

Introducing the Gestalt alter- native, I face the question of the degree to which we can say that a Gestalt school still survives. Then, after addressing the tenability of its central principles of Relational Determination and Simplicity, I sketch the work of other researchers whose Gestalt works on the arts complement those of Arnheim.

Then, a pxychological of structural similarity isomorphism underlying expression, metaphor and symbolism is possible. Metaphor arises because of differences in arnhfim levels of abstraction and symbolism. The abilities to recognize the commonality of genera is abstraction. On the other hand, when these singularities are in-stead sensibly compared and manipulated, on their way to a new order, productive — or as Arnheim calls it, visual — thinking occurs.

Arnheim psycnological The Power of the Center has proposed a simple system of perceptual centers generating dynamics between them, and bounded by various formats, a surprisingly powerful system. Gestaot is the basis for the rest of the book. I conclude that such an approach cannot be done away with, for its monistic spirit drives the things that is most attractive about Gestaltism, its monistic naturalism.

This chapter includes the three visual modalities. Pictures contain shapes, which are perceptual centers. These develop meaning within the confines of the format, the frame, page or whatever.

The object can be an object in its own right when the format becomes the environment around it. Sculptures are centers containing sub-centers but the format is instead the virtual axis created by the vertical.

Buildings, finally, are complicated by the fact that they and their sub-centers are inhabited, creating a constant interaction between inside and outside, plan and flow, elevation and outside aspect.

The building itself, as a center, then interacts with the landscape or urban fabric. Of absolute movement, we have dance and acting, and both interact with the format of the stage. Similarly, edited action has the frame of the film to work with.

Project MUSE – Arnheim, Gestalt and Art: A Psychological Theory (review)

Tones are centers that derive meaning from the kind of scale they interact with. In the western diatonic scale the major and minor modes of the scale are the clearest means to work with. Arheim arbitrary tonic chosen then chains the tones to the recurrent ordering of the scale. The tone moves up this scale and down it, as a coming-toward and a moving-away-from, with attached notions of striving and rest.

Together with the meter, phrase dynamics are developed, and larger compositional orderings. Language can be more me- mento or less message poetic.

It has numerous layers, the visual, the tonal, the syntactic and semantic. Verbal dynamics mitigate between stable centers of nouns and pronouns. Larger structures emerge too with degrees of centeredness and diffuseness, helping determine the style of the work. Children, Adults, Cul- tures. Perceptual microgenesis is a fact of perception, the qualitative unfolding of percepts over very short durations.

It shows a structure of increasing differentiation that is useful for discussing creative thought. Such problem solving takes a similar route, but is regulated by the motivational desire to decrease tension. There can be forward moves q backward steps, and these can be modeled as dynamic cases of satiation and then reorganization. In general, the indi- vidual passes from a perception and depiction of generalities to a conquest of reality, and finally a contemplation of that reality.