Image: Gaia Domenici
The successful publication of The Red Book (2009) has marked an important change in the history of C.G. Jung.
Not only has this colossal book upended our understanding of Jung––expanding the horizon of scholarly research on Jung and visual works––but it has also permanently shifted the perspective in Jung History. Indeed, after
The Red Book, it has become impossible to conduct an investigation into depth psychology, without considering Jungʼs engagement with art. Even more importantly, Jungʼs own images and pictures have become increasingly relevant to Jung studies.
The Art of C.G. Jung (2019), edited by the Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, is the first extensive work to include both a collection of essays on Jung and art, and a gallery of archival images of Jungʼs own visual production.
For this reason, The Art of C.G. Jung is bound to become required reading for present and future generations of Jung scholars.
As the president of the Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung, Daniel Niehus, writes in the foreword, Jungʼs artwork presents unique features, some of which display ʻsimilarities to the development in modern art of the early twentieth centuryʼ (7).
Such features are all present in the emblematic illustrations from Liber Novus, chosen for the front and back covers of the book.
The first essay of the collection, ʻImages from the Unconscious.
An Introduction to the Visual Works of C.G. Jungʼ by Ulrich Hoerni, serves as an introduction for the rest of the book.
As reported by Hoerni, the ʻfirst, albeit incomplete overview of [Jungʼs] creative workʼ happened during the biographical exhibition organised by the City of Zurich in the Helmhaus for the one hundredth anniversary of Jungʼs birthday, when paintings by Jung, facsimiles of Liber Novus and photographs of stone carvings were displayed (11).
Even though one had to wait until 1993 for an inventory of Jungʼs creative work to be compiled, a certain interest in Jungʼs relationship with visual arts had already been spreading since the publication of Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Review of The Art of C.G. Jung. Edited by the Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung. Ulrich Hoerni, Thomas Fischer, Bettina Kaufmann.
Translated from German by Paul David Young and Christopher John Murray. New York / London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.
ISBN 978-0-393-25487-7. £60.00. USA $85. CAN. $112.00. 192 pp.
Interestingly, Hoerni identifies six different phases in Jungʼs visual works, which differ from each other chronologically, thematically and in terms of pictorial technique used.
These are: drawings of fantasies; ʻlandscapesʼ; ʻdrawings of his future home in Küsnachtʼ; ʻinner imagesʼ; ʻitems specific to his home, family, and intimatesʼ; ʻthe Tower at Bollingenʼ (12-13).
In the second essay of the collection, ʻC.G. Jung and Modern Artʼ, Thomas Fischer and Bettina Kaufmann explore Jungʼs relationship with
modern art in detail. Moving away from Jungʼs controversial analogy between the work of Picasso and Joyce and the pictures of his schizophrenic patients, the authors focus on ʻthe possible sources of Jungʼs cultural education and its influence on his understanding of artʼ (20).
Fischer and Kaufmann investigate Jungʼs interest in art, from his early days as a student in Basel to the end of his life. In particular, they dwell upon Jungʼs engagement with Symbolism, his interest in the ʻpsychological contentʼ of modern art (23), and his relationship with Zurich Surrealism and Dada.
In response to the controversy around Jung and modern art, Fischer and Kaufmann conclude their essay by arguing that ʻJung did not engage superficially with modern art, but rather immersed himself in it on many levels during his lifetimeʼ (28).
So, if, on the one hand, from a Jungian perspective ʻmodern art could only succeed if it reunited itself with contentʼ, on the other hand, Odilo Redon or Giovanni Segantiniʼs Symbolism ʻcorresponded more readily than modern art to Jungʼs idea of art as a psychological
expression. Contemporary literature, art and painting fascinated Jung only insofar as he could perceive human experience in themʼ (ibid.).
The third essay is ʻC.G. Jungʼs Concepts of Color in the Context of Modern Artʼ by Medea Hoch. Starting from Jungʼs association ʻcolour
= feelingʼ (Jung , CW 15:§213), and well aware of the absence of a ʻtrue color theoryʼ in Jungʼs thought (35), the author explores Jungʼs engagement with colour, both in his theoretical reflections and in his artistic production.
As Hoch shows throughout her essay, these two aspects appear deeply intermingled. Motifs such as ʻheaven and earthʼ (36), the Middle Ages, and alchemy all bear witness to Jungʼs fascination with the symbolic component of colour on a theoretical level. At the same time,as
the author shows, both the symbolic meaning of ʻheaven and earthʼ and medieval art are also reflected in Jungʼs visual works (i.e. in his early landscape paintings and Liber Novus, respectively).
Moreover, as Hoch remarks, the Middle Ages had a certain fascination on abstract modernists and Dada artists whom Jung was in contact with, such as Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Hans Arp.
To conclude, Hoch reports Jungʼs statement in his analytical psychology seminar, according to which ʻmodern art […] began first by dissolving the object, and then sought the basic things, the internal image back of the object––the eidolonʼ (Jung : 51), and observes that, whereas ʻthis process persisted for years for many artists of the avant-garde, Jung seems to have found his way to abstract forms and symbols quite naturally by means of Active Imagination (47).
The core of the book, as one could expect, is occupied by the gallery section, in which reproductions of Jungʼs art are displayed and
commented on. Jung’s visual oeuvre is reproduced according to the categorisation proposed by Hoerni in the first essay: the individual pieces are grouped into eighteen different sections, each of them followed y a detailed commentary.
The sections are: ʻCastles, Towns, Battles Scenesʼ (1884-1928); ʻLandscapesʼ (1899-1905); ʻParis and Its Environsʼ (1902); ʻSeascapesʼ (1903-1915); ʻThe House in Küsnachtʼ (1906-1925), ʻInner Images and The Red Bookʼ (1915), ʻAnimaʼ (1920-1925), ʻSystema Mundi Totiusʼ (1916-1925), ʻMandalasʼ (1920), ʻPhanêsʼ (1917-1920; spelling modified), ʻSpheric Visionsʼ (1919-1920), ʻStarsʼ (1921-1927), ʻCabiri and the Winged Snakeʼ (1915-1917), ʻPhilemonʼ (1919-1925), ʻAtmavictu and Other Figuresʼ (1919-1920), ʻSnakesʼ (1915-1920), ʻThe Stone at Bollingenʼ (1950), ʻMemorialsʼ (1955-1961).
The last four essays of The Art of C.G. Jung focus on Liber Novus more specifically. The first one, ʻIntimations of the Self: Jungʼs Mandala
Sketches for The Red Bookʼ, by Diane Finiello Zervas, dwells upon the evolution of Jungʼs mandala representations and conceptualisation.
As Zervas remarks, although Jungʼs first fully fledged mandala drawings date back from 1917, he ʻbegan to make mandala-like forms in 1915ʼ (179) and ʻwas familiar with the core concept underlying mandala symbolism from his research for The Psychology of the Unconscious (1912)ʼ (182).
Supporting her argument with a vast array of reproductions of sketches by Jung from August-September 1917, the author explores
the long gestation leading to Jungʼs first mature representation of a mandala in the well-known Systema Mundi Totius (1917).
The second essay, ʻMatter and Method in The Red Book: Selected Findingsʼ, by Jill Mellick, explores Jungʼs technical choices as well as
innovations in the Red Book illustrations.
From choosing the pigments, the binding medium, the carrier and the painting surface material, and supported by several reproductions of Jungʼs illustrations, Mellick observes similarities with, and differences from manuscript illuminators from the Middle Ages. Interestingly, as she remarks, Jung ʻwas constantly brokering an uneasy peace among intensity, transparency and opacity.
To do this, he invented techniquesʼ (219). This essay gives a very detailed analysis of what Mellick defines, in her conclusive section, a ʻslow, demanding, taxing, irrevocable, risky, disciplined process in making The
As Mellick concludes, during this process, Jung became ʻnot only his own master and student but master of matter and methodʼ (230).
ʻC.G Jung the Collectorʼ, by Thomas Fischer, reconstructs the history of Jungʼs collection in detail. Starting from Jungʼs childhood, Fischer explores Jungʼs fascination with collections, his coming ʻinto contact with antiquesʼ (234) and the origin of his own collection.
As Fischer notes, ʻJungʼs apparently unmethodical collection of objects contrasts sharply with the systematic and passionate collection of
As he points out, Jungʼs interest seems to be moved by ʻcomparative symbology and the systematic discussion of mythologyʼ (236).
These aspects are also reflected in Jungʼs interest in ethnography.
Fischer, too, dwells upon the recurrence of mandalas in Jungʼs collection, and by virtue of the diversity of such collection, concludes by stating that ʻJung cannot be called a collector in the usual senseʼ.
Indeed, ʻviewing the collection in the larger context of his research interests makes clear that Jung collected primarily knowledgeʼ (239-241).
The Art of C.G. Jung ends with ʻA Selection of Illuminated Initials in The Red Bookʼ, by Ulrich Hoerni, in which selected illuminated
initials from Liber Primus and Liber Secundus are reproduced.
A short commentary, preceding the reproduction of the illuminated initials, explains that ʻJung did not make personal comments on the meaning and motifs of the illuminated initials in The Red Bookʼ.
Although some of them seem to ʻbe partly understood in reference to his other visual or literary worksʼ, given the ʻabsence of any finished information a final interpretation is ultimately impossibleʼ.
As Hoerni ultimately notes, the illuminated illustrations are subject to stylistic variations whose application ʻroughly follows the stylistic development of classic European modern artʼ (246).
The Art of C.G. Jung encompasses all aspects of Jungʼs relation to art: from his artistic reception and preferences, through his hermeneutical confrontation with Modernism, to his own artistic experimentation.
All these aspects are researched and explored in detail, and offer the readers a wide, and insightful overview of an inescapable component
of Jungʼs engagement with art, which is bound to become ever more relevant in the study of Jung.
In spite of the richness of the subject and the meticulousness of the analysis, however, the entire book is written in a very clear style, which makes it accessible to both specialists and the general public.
By virtue of this, we cannot but be grateful to the Foundation of the Works of C.G. Jung for granting us such an abundance of historical information and archival reproductions. Gaia Domenici, Review of The Art of C.G. Jung Edited by Ulrich Hoerni, Thomas Fischer, Bettina Kaufmann, Page 1-5
Jung, Carl Gustav. . Analytical Psychology: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1925, ed. William McGuire. London: Routledge, 1990.
––––—. . Picasso. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol. 15:§§204-214.