The Thought, Life and Influence of Rudolf Arnheim

Genetic, Social and General Psychological Monographs 122 (1996): 197-213.

Rudolf Arnheim's (1904-) theories are described and his life is recounted through his periods in Germany (1904-1932), Italy (1933-1938), London (1939-1940), New York (1941-1968), Cambridge, Mass., (1968-1974) and Ann Arbor, Mich., (1974-present). The evolution of his theory of the psychology of art is discussed against the background of his institutional associations. Briefly, the present status of his theory is assessed. 

Rudolf Arnheim is surely one of the great psychologists of the century. In a career reaching over seventy years, he has made seminal contributions to the psychology of art, aesthetics, art education, and media studies. His achievement touches so many aspects of twentieth-century thought that it is hard to estimate his importance. Even so, besides a few articles (Kennedy, 1980; Troelson, 1985), no major study of his thinking has appeared.

Technically, Arnheim was trained as a psychologist, and he always considered himself to be a psychologist. But with the exception of his dissertation (Arnheim, 1928) and one or two other writings, he never published an experiment. He was, as he admitted, the epitome of the amateur. Like Trimalchio of the Satyricon, Arnheim says he is like the crab. "To stand on many legs, as I have done in my own professional interests for a lifetime, is rewarding but tricky" and, furthermore, to walk side-ways creates an 'obvious' traffic problem" (Arnheim, 1976, p. xiii).



Arnheim's great works are of course Art and Visual Perception, an instant classic when first published in 1954, and expanded to 500 pages in 1974, and The Power of the Center (1982/1988). His great contribution, and that of these particular works, is of balancing the scientific rationale of psychology with the reality of art. Arnheim (1982) once wrote,

"When psychologists investigate the arts, two prerequisites, more than any others, are indispensable for success. The explorers need the delicate hands of good surgeons, who can penetrate a body without destroying the order and functioning of the organs; and they need respect for what Rudolf Otto, speaking of religion, called the mysterium tremendum -- that is, the awe-inspiring secret. If they lack the delicacy of touch, they will noisily handle their data without caring enough about what they are doing to the phenomena they want to describe and explain. If they lack the respect, they may assume that they are dealing only with the ordinary, augmented perhaps a few degrees" (p. v).

The goal is of "catching the albatross while it is still flying" as he is fond of saying. In the introduction to Art and Visual Perception he in fact writes of the difficulty of mastering both art theory and psychology, and his ability to do both is his particular gift and legacy. But this is not all. His work had to appeal to the artist, and the theory put forward had to have Òthe stain of authenticity.Ó It is an art theory/psychology recognizable to artists.

What does Arnheim try to do? Simply put, he tries to explain the way we perceive, think about, and create art. More narrowly, he tries to understand the work of art as a preliminary science. The painting or sculpture must reveal itself as a work of art before other extensions into its understanding can be undertaken. This approach can coexist with others, if it is recognized as the preliminary science that it is. If it is denied that a first science exists -- then Arnheim parts company anyway.

Arnheim is one of the truly intelligent lookers we have had, in the line of Alois Riegl and Heinrich Woelfflin. He secondly was extremely fortunate in his almost accidental affiliation with Berlin gestalt psychology, which provided him with most intelligent tools with which to sharpen his looking. Third, he was an orthodox Berlin gestalt psychologist which accrues to him any of the philosophical sophistication (or lack of it) of his teachers. Perhaps lastly he has had the gift of a long life which gave him the opportunity to write more in the twenty years after his retirement than he had in the several decades before it.

Arnheim looks at art as a scientist and, indeed, throughout his entire academic career, he has identified with, and represented, the scientific school of gestalt theory. As a scientist, his concepts are not engraved in stone, but are offered as the best rational explanations of the phenomena he presently observes. Arnheim strongly believes that science can bridge the gap between itself and hermeneutic interpretation, and always looks to more adequate tools from mathematics and physics to address this. In this sense, his theory is open ended, and it is only this fact that allowed him to completely rewrite his Art and Visual Perception twenty years after its original publication.




Arnheim was born in Berlin, 15 July 1904. His father, Georg Arnheim (1878-1943), was a manufacturer of pianos. Arnheim entered the University of Berlin in 1923. According to Arnheim (Glasscock, 1989), he made a deal with his father to "spend half the week at the piano factory and half the week at the University of Berlin" (p. 10). But his studies soon consumed him and it was clear that he would devote all his attention to academics. Arnheim's natural interests were in art, literature and music, and while he "minored" in art and music history, most important was his eventual training and adherence to Gestalt psychology.

After the revolution of 1918, the Imperial Palace had been abandoned, and there in a part of it the Psychological Institute was given occupancy (c.f., Ash, 1980). There the Gestalt psychologists had their headquarters. The school only had developed an identity in the 'teens, and when Arnheim entered the University the journal which published the Gestalt research, Psychologische Forschung, had just been founded and Wolfgang Koehler (1887-1967) had just been awarded Carl Stumpf's prestigious chair in philosophy and directorship of the Psychological Institute.

Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), another professor at the Institute, would come to be Arnheim's most important teacher, advising his dissertation. But Arnheim not only took courses from Wertheimer and Khler, but also Johannes von Allesch (1890-?), Erich M. von Hornbostel (1877-1935) and Kurt Lewin (1890-1947). It is well known that Koehler and Wertheimer were musical (and Koehler, like Stumpf before him, was an expert on sound perception) but it is important to point out many of the faculty were recognized figures in aesthetics. Allesch published on art and aesthetics, and Hornbostel was the world authority on ethnomusicology. One cannot imagine a more fruitful training.

I need not go into detail about the brilliance of the Gestalt school in the years of the 'twenties, which has been described many times (c.f., Heider, 1970). Besides the brilliance of his teachers, one need only point out that many of Arnheim's contemporaries went on to brilliant careers in psychology, themselves, including Karl Duncker (1903-1941), Richard Meili (1901-1989), Wolfgang Metzger (1899-1979) and Hans Wallach (1904-). Almost throughout Arnheim's career, some contemporary of his was continuing to make seminal contributions to general psychology.

Arnheim's (1928) dissertation was devoted to the problem of expression (Ausdruckspsychologie). Matching experiments were devised by Wertheimer to test his claim that the different aspects of one person, their handwriting, their artistic work, etc. shared a "radix" and could be matched with success. The experiments also showed the effect context has on the expressive quality of any part of a configuration. The same chin, for instance, embedded in another face, can take on a completely different dynamic. The matching experiments were completed with above chance success. The study remains a classic in expression theory, and



in the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty it is often referred to, and often anonymously, along with the experiments of Arnheim's classmate, Werner Wolff (1904-1957), as a demonstration of the epistemological reality of expressive properties.

Concurrent with his studies, Arnheim became a contributor of film reviews to Berlin weeklies (at first, Das Stachelschwein), publishing his first review at 21 (Diederichs, 1977). As he says, "I was twenty one when Eisenstein's Battleship Potempkin first sailed" (Peterson, 1972). Arnheim says he "would compose reviews in his head as he walked home from the latest films" (Glasscock, 1989, p. 10). From 1925 to 1928 Arnheim both studied psychology and wrote for the weeklies. At twenty four, with the completion of the dissertation, he hired on as a junior editor of Die Weltbhne, edited by the social critics Carl von Ossietzky (1889-1938) and Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1941).

It is interesting to point out that because Arnheim's locus operandi was in journalism at this time, he was challenged much more than his fellow students by more ideological doctrines, most importantly Marxism and psychoanalysis.2 The hegemony of Marxism can be judged by the names of the great film and radio theorists and writers of the time, Bela Balazs, Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht, etc.

Arnheim did not react to this situation as an outsider but transformed it as an insider, by remaining sensitive to ideology but affirming the precedence of form. In a precocious and highly independent statement, Arnheim addressed reactions to his criticisms of the director Rene Clair. Arnheim humorously says that "the reader must now picture me as a bald dotard sitting at his desk with dreadfully thick spectacles on his nose. But after all, what are aesthetic laws if not laws of concrete effect?" (Diederichs, p. 254). Arnheim always affirmed that ideological analysis must always precede adequate formal analysis.

Arnheim's journalistic efforts culminated in his Film als Kunst, first published in 1932, with a book cover by the artist Georgy Kepes. As the title indicates, a major part of the book was an attempt to acclimatize the public to the differences between film and reality that allowed it to be used successfully as an artistic medium. More importantly, it was one of the most rigorous attempts to see how meaning can arise from cinematographic techniques. Needless to say, the work remains a classic in film theory, and especially of the so-called era of "formalist film criticism" (Arnheim would reject the designation of formalist). While subsequent developments in film theory tended almost exclusively to the ideological side, formal analysis is once again a serious topic of research.

Soon, the Nazi threat made itself felt. An insight into Arnheim's life can be seen in the fact that in December 1930, at the premiere of the film version of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Nazi sympathizers let loose rats in



the theaters and terrorized anyone attempting to see the anti-war film. Ossietzy (1930) responded in no uncertain terms. Immediately afterward, he wrote,

"This affair is not political and not touched by aesthetic categories. It is completely irrelevant whether the film, and the book on which it is based, are works of art. The sole question is whether a deliberately moderate pacific way of thinking. . .should be continued to be permitted or not" (p. 889, cited in Gay, 1968).

This view supplemented Arnheim's, for within the bounds of the picture frame, we can suppose, Arnheim's imperative held (as it did, for instance, in his criticism of Chaplin's The Great Dictator). A work of Nazi propaganda would have to be analyzed for its formal elements, and then criticized. But outside of the frame, in the interacting world of citizens, another imperative arises.

Soon afterward, Hitler was elected chancellor and Die Weltbhne was quickly put out of publication. In 1933 the racial laws were openly adapted and since many of the Gestalt psychologists were Jews, including Arnheim, they were forced with varying degrees of urgency, to consider emigration. The German Gestalt school began to fragment. Only Khler and some students remained in Germany until the National Socialist party began to dictate the affairs of the psychological institute, and he too left. Ossietzky was eventually interred in a concentration camp and released, but because of mistreatment in the camp contracted tuberculosis and had to accept his Nobel Peace Prize in absentia and died in 1938.

Wolfgang Koehler demonstrated heroic behavior during the Nazi period (he was one of the first academics to publish an open protest against Nazi policies, and one of the few non-Jewish academics to protest at all (Henle, 1978)). Nevertheless, Arnheim (1989/1992) called von Ossietzky "the only real hero I have ever known because his heroism did not emanate from vital exuberance but was a power of the spirit in spite of a personal frailty and shyness that were quite evident at first meeting" (p. 239). Arnheim was one of the few to leave immediately. Perhaps because of his humanist training and probable mastery of Italian, he left for Rome in 1933. As he says, not yet thirty, "I left the country that had shaped my mind" (p. 240).

ROME: 1932-1938

According to Arnheim (1988), he took a home in the Alban hills outside of Rome. He became associated with the League of Nations and the International Institute for Educational Film. His friends were primarily humanists, like Guido Aristarco, Fedele d'Amico and Paolo Milano. Since at this time Arnheim's teachers were still towering figures in psychology, he must have shared in the impression that things were being left in very good hands (in 1935 Kurt Koffka published his monumental Principles of Gestalt Psychology). While the only Gestalt-like work in psychology was going on in the north of Italy, and in Padua more precisely, Arnheim seems to have followed these developments at a dis-



tance, although it seems certain that he knew of the publications of Cesare Musatti (1899-1989), the premier student of Vittorio Benussi, the Graz Gestalt psychologist.

According to Mary Arnheim's bibliography deposited at the Fine Arts Library, University of Michigan, Film als Kunst was partially translated into Italian by Umberto Barbaro (1902-1959). Several sources refer to the fact that Barbaro and Luigi Chiarini (1900-1975) distributed Italian versions of the classic theoretical works of Balzs, Eisenstein and Pudovkin to their students at the Centro Sperimentale Cinematografico; to this list Arnheim's name must be added. The theorists of the Istituto, including Arnheim, lectured at the Centro Sperimentale Cinematografico. Arnheim (1957), in a new preface to Film as Art refers to these students being "hamstrung with fascism" and studying the classic silent films like "cloistered monks" (p. 23). With usual modesty he fails to note that some of these students would be the leaders of neorealismo.

Arnheim's career in Italy paralleled his career in Germany in that he devoted himself to a central book. While amidst the movie reviewing he wrote Film als Kunst, in Italy amidst his encyclopedia article writing, he wrote a parallel work on radio, titled in manuscript Rundfunk als Hrkunst. When it was finished in 1935, it was impossible to publish it in Germany, where Arnheim had since only published a few articles, sometimes under a pseudoname. Instead, the manuscript was delivered to England and translated by Herbert Read as Radio: As Art of Sound (1936). The original German was not published until 1979, two years after a reprint of the book on film.

In 1937, the to-be-famous movie production center, Cinecitt, was dedicated by Mussolini, and the journal Bianco e Nero was launched. The following year Arnheim (1938) contributed one of his most important works, "Nuovo Laocoonte" [New Laocoon] in which he developed a lengthy argument about the rules according to which composite works of art can be made, and thereby invalidated the talking film as a "hybrid form".

In 1938 the Enciclopedia del Cinema, including many entries by Arnheim, was in page proofs when Mussolini withdrew from the League of Nations. This meant that the Encliclopedia would never be published (In the 'fifties some articles were translated by Arnheim and published in English, and then in the 'seventies with the aid of Helmut Diederichs some were published in the original German). At this time Mussolini also finally adopted the racial laws of Germany; thus Arnheim would be forced to leave. From this time, Arnheim (1988) recalls a meeting with the art historian Horst Janson, who had then come to Rome. Arnheim expressed his misgivings about the inevitable move to America (misgivings which he would later recognize in the diaries of the painter Max Beckmann). Arnheim does not know whether or not he would have stayed in Italy without Mussolini's action, though he admits "The intensely intellectual provincialism of a Mediterranean setting limited to a minor, though magnificently endowed language would have exerted its influence" (p, 241).



Arnheim did not visit Italy again until 1947. At that time, according to his friend Fedele d'Amico (Garau, 1989a), a private screening of the film, Ladri di biclicette, by the former student of the Centro Sperimentale Cinematografico, de Sica, was arranged. Arnheim admired the film, and said so to de Sica. Afterwards, de Sica took d'Amico aside and said, "Ma questo Arnheim, chi'?" ("Who is this man Arnheim?"). Even though Arnheim lectured the students, he does not seem to have known them personally.

Thereafter, Arnheim occasionally contributed to Italian film journals and the Italian film specialists received with interest his book, Art and Visual Perception (1954) (and especially the chapter on "Movement") which was translated by the Trieste philosopher Gillo Dorfles. Arnheim did begin to recognize, however, that much of the most important research done in perception was being done in Italy in relative obscurity. Arnheim, with his perfect Italian, eventually began to correspond with these scientists, most importantly Gaetano Kanizsa (1913-1993) (to whom he became especially close) and Fabio Metelli (1907-1987), and made use of their work when it was almost unknown in America (this is approvingly noted by Dorfles in his Italian preface to the second edition of Art and Visual Perception).

Perhaps with their broader, humanist training the Italians seemed particularly receptive to Arnheim. If one compares Arnheim's Italian and American Festschriften, one can see this fact (Garau, 1989b; Henle, 1976). The American contributions are of a wide variety and made by contemporaries and friends, while the Italian contributions are made almost exclusively by psychologists and some by the younger generation who may not have known Arnheim at all. At the honorary meeting organized by the painter Augusto Garau (the papers of which became the Italian Festschrift), Arnheim for the first time assembled with Kanizsa and Metelli. As he said, being in Italy was like his "casa propria" (own home).

LONDON - 1939-1940

Arnheim, apparently, tried to go first to America but because of immigration quotas went to London for the interim. Herbert Read sponsored his coming to England. Upon arriving in England, Arnheim also received aid from his sister, Leni, and her husband the art historian Kurt



Badt, both of whom had already fled Germany. Another sister, Mary Arnheim, was also in England and married to the photographer John Gay.

Arnheim recalls that at this time he became a translator for the Overseas Broadcasting Company, London, providing live written translations from English into German for the radio announcers (Arnheim, 1988). He says, "Our biggest challenge was translating Winston Churchill because the better the writer, the harder the translation" (Glasscock, 1989).

In conversation, Arnheim has indicated that with his brother-in-law, Kurt Badt, he worked on a German translation of Dante's Divina Commedia. Years later Arnheim (1970/1986) contributed an essay on Dante to Badt's Festschrift with the inscription, "In dankbarer Erinnerung an gemeinsame Dantestudien whrend des Krieges in London" (p. 56). The two no doubt also visited the great museums in London. When, in an essay on the theory of art history, Arnheim (1992) says "I owe the late Dr. Badt many of my most decisive experiences of art" we can imagine these visits (p. 234).

NEW YORK - 1940-1968

In 1940, with the procurement of the proper visa, "Arnheim traveled from England to New York on a passenger ship blacked out to escape detection by Nazi submarines and planes" (Glasscock, 1989). In New York, he was able to rejoin his teacher, Wertheimer, who had come to New York in 1934 after fleeing from Prague. Wertheimer established a home in New Rochelle which was known as a haven for regufees.

Wertheimer was then professor of psychology on the Graduate Faculty at the newly created New School for Social Research, or "University in Exile," and Arnheim was invited to join the faculty as well. In Italy, Arnheim shifted from journalism to a more academic lifestyle. Now, in America, it seemed the transformation was complete. Recall that Arnheim had never bothered to become habilitiert, and complete a second dissertation that would have enabled him to teach in German universities. But Arnheim's dissertation, as well as two recognized books and volume of essays, already made him an established figure in psychology, and he began the life of an American academic.

Almost immediately (1941), Arnheim received a Rockefeller Fellowship to work for the Office of Radio Research at Columbia University, which it funded. In consultation with its director, the Vienna-trained sociologist, Paul Lazarsfeld, he decided to work on an analysis of the radio "soap opera," and he proceeded by analyzing the content of plots, producing a classic work (Arnheim, 1944). It is interesting to note that the philosopher Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) had just left when the funding for the music project had run out in Spring 1939, and he went to California to rejoin Horkheimer. Neither Adorno nor Arnheim ever addressed the other's work, but Arnheim shared Adorno's (1969) view that "[Walter] Benjamin [took] an all too positive attitude toward cultural industry, due to its technological potentialities" (p. 342). It is also interesting to note that Lazarsfeld had been generally disappointed with Adorno's contributions, but was very pleased with Arnheim's (Lazarsfeld, 1969).

The radio project concluded, in a way, the phase of Arnheim's life that had begun in 1925 with his first film reviews. He had by then spent almost two decades on problems of new media and, aside from the dissertation, had scarcely touched in publications more traditional questions of psychology and art. I al-



ready mentioned that while in Italy, the affairs of Gestalt psychology were "in good hands," and it is reasonable to say that this had at least reflection on the general psychology of art. Wertheimer, we must recall, was still lecturing on the subject at the New School and while Koffka had suddenly died at the age of 55 (in 1941) he had contributed an application of Gestalt psychology, "Problems in the psychology of art," that was on the cutting edge of psychological aesthetics (Koffka, 1940). It was only with Wertheimer's death two years later (in 1943) that Arnheim took up the subject full time. At that time, Arnheim (1989) delivered a memorial address for Wertheimer, and recalls Wertheimer's friend of many years, Albert Einstein, sitting in the first row.

Now Arnheim planned in earnest to produce a work on the implications of gestalt psychology for art. Toward this, he was awarded a two-year fellowship from the Guggenheim foundation. The first indication of this was in a work entitled "Gestalt and art," published in the newly founded Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism in 1943. As Arnheim (1954/1974) later wrote in the "Introduction" to Art and Visual Perception, "In the course of my work I was driven to the conclusion that the tools then available in the psychology of perception were inadequate for dealing with some of the more important visual problems in the arts. Instead of writing the book I had planned, I therefore undertook a number of specific studies, mainly in the areas of space, expression and movement, designed to fill some of the gaps" (p. 9). These "studies" became the professional papers, "Perceptual abstraction and art" (1947/1966), "The gestalt theory of expression" (1949/1966) and "Perceptual and aesthetic aspects of the movement response" (1951/1966). The kind of book Arnheim perhaps could have written earlier is easily seen in Georgy Kepes' Language of Vision (1943), which was a straightforward application of Gestalt principles to art. (One may also look to some of the papers of Ivy Campbell, who applied Gestalt psychology to art). But he waited.

It is perhaps at this point that something should be said of Arnheim's meeting with the philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy, which also may have contributed to the unity of his views. One of the authors Arnheim came upon by accident in America was Coomaraswamy, who was then curator at the Boston Museum of Art. Coomaraswamy's traditional or "normal" view of art seemed to provide a historical and philosophical complement to the psychological theory he was then constructing. Arnheim then traveled to Boston to meet Coomaraswamy and speak to him. The meeting seemed to cement Arnheim's confidence in what he was undertaking and it is the present author's conviction that this is what led Gestalt psychology (at least in Arnheim's mind) back to a philosophical basis that had been severed with psychology's emancipation from philosophy.

In 1943 Arnheim also became a faculty member of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York; an undergraduate institution, it complemented his position at the New School. He would remain at Sarah Lawrence until 1968. At this time, Sarah Lawrence was an exciting place. Bessie Schoenberg taught dance,



and Arnheim's perfect contemporary, Joseph Campell (1904-1987) taught mythology. With Campbell, Arnheim was able to probe deeper into questions of Ananda Coomaraswamy's traditional philosophy of art, with which he had been recently acquainted.

In 1950 Arnheim made another attempt at a gestalt psychology of art with the award of a Rockefeller Fellowship. Of course, by this time the "preliminary studies" already mentioned had been completed so Arnheim finally began the work, which he says he wrote essentially in one long sitting. According to Arnheim (1954/1974), this manuscript of what was to become Art and Visual Perception was read completely by the art educator Henry Schaefer-Simmern (1896-197?), the art historian Meyer Schapiro, and the psychologist Hans Wallach. This provided perspectives of art education, art history and psychology by three world class experts. Arnheim published pieces of the manuscript as essays in aesthetic journals and then the work finally appeared in 1954, with the subtitle, A Psychology for the Creative Eye.

In 1959, Arnheim was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Japan for the academic year. He recounts (Arnheim, 1994) that he "wanted to live for a while in a place where the arts were not confined to museums and galleries but were still needed to shape the style of daily living and objects of practical use" (p. 29). Arnheim met the leader of the folkcraft movement in Japan, Soetsu Yanagi, and must have seen Coomaraswamian principles at work. This influenced Arnheim, upon returning to the United States, to formulate a "traditional" view of art making that did not distinguish between the functional and the aesthetic (Arnheim, 1964/1966).

Even larger questions began to be developed. These centered on Arnheim's conviction of the "intelligence of the senses," already mentioned in his essay "Gestalt and art" (1943). Now, Arnheim's ideas about the conceptual element in perception, developed in "Perceptual abstraction and art," emerged as a central problem. Arnheim wrote essays on mental imagery ("Image and thought," Arnheim, 1965), constancy of form as a cognitive problem ("Constancy and abstraction," Arnheim, 1967) and the role of language in cognition ("What do the eyes contribute?" Arnheim, 1962) and developed these thoughts into the manuscript of Visual Thinking, to be published in 1969.

The basic thesis of Visual Thinking is that spatially perceivable relations provide the analogies of productive thinking. The idea is already present in Wertheimer's discussions of sensible relations in Productive Thinking (1945). As a matter of fact, in a note included in the second edition of the work, Wertheimer (1959) writes that he hoped that his book could be supplemented by another on general thinking and another on logic. It occured to the present author that perhaps Arnheim regarded his work as a realization of Wertheimer's project. But upon Arnheim's recollection at that time (ca. 1992) he did not remember the idea of general thinking but only the logic. So it seems that Visual Thinking grew from organic concerns.

In a sense, Visual Thinking was the culmination of the New York years, for



upon its publication Arnheim was called to Harvard University to become the first professor of the psychology of art, for which it created a title (never since refilled after his retirement). There, at age sixty five Arnheim enjoyed and continued what he had created, a psychology of art based upon general cognition and applicable to all the arts.

CAMBRIDGE - 1969-1974

In Cambridge, Arnheim's office was located in the Carpenter Center for the Arts, designed by Le Corbusier. The department was that of Visual and Environmental Studies. This indicates a drift from psychology and while Arnheim was Professor of psychology at Sarah Lawrence, he never again held a position, visiting or otherwise, in a psychology department. But he was relieved to devote himself at last completely to the psychology of art, and not general psychology.

During the appointment at Harvard, Arnheim continued to work on mental images and thinking. Recall that his essay, "Image and thought" was one of the first to seriously discuss the problems of mental images for decades, and preceded the explosion of work on such images in the early 'seventies (by Roger Shepard, etc.).

Another project in Cambridge was the writing of the new version of Art and Visual Perception. As Arnheim (1954/1974) writes in the preface to the book, it "ha[d] been completely rewritten" and "most of the text is new" (p. ix, x). He further said that he was not perfectly happy with the organization of the earlier edition, and that, in fact, his understanding of the problems he treated had become even clearer in the meantime.


Upon retirement from Harvard, Arnheim moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, the home town of his wife Mary. He became Walgreen visiting professor at the college of Language, Sciences and Arts at the University of Michigan and taught a large course in the Fall and a seminar on the comparative psychology of art in the Spring. Arnheim says that many of the students who had taken the Fall course vied for places in the Winter course, for which there were only thirty openings (Glasscock, 1989).

Arnheim has spoken of his shift of approach of these years. Early he had begun with a perceptual mechanism and proceeded to illustrate it with works of art. Now with his theoretical position completed, he began with the works themselves, and proceeded to muster whatever psychological tools he could. This was a prime example of Arnheim's own "late" style, which he at this time was elaborating with examples of painters (Arnheim, 1978/1986).

Immediately after leaving Harvard, Arnheim was invited to deliver the Mary Duke Biddle lectures at the Cooper Union School in New York. He chose to take the oppor-



tunity to present a substantial contribution on the theory of architecture, to match the earlier books on visual art, film and radio. Art and Visual Perception, however, did not serve as the absolute model of what was to become The Dynamics of Architectural Form (1977). As he said, "the present book is less technical, less systematic. Be it because I was reluctant to recapitulate earlier explanations, or because the broader experiential range of architecture invited a different treatment, the present book is more an explorer's report on high spots of the man-made environment than the outcome of a professional analysis" (p. 7).

More importantly, it was some time earlier when Arnheim had rediscovered Theodor Lipps' Raumaesthetik (1897). In 1966 Arnheim had written a long article on "The dynamics of shape" which signalled a new orientation. This was brought over to the study of architecture. Arnheim (1977) writes that "I have come increasingly to believe that the dynamics of shape, color, and movement is the decisive, although the least explored, factor of sensory perception, and for this reason the word 'dynamics' figures in the title of this book" (p. 7). A few years later, Arnheim (1984/1986) would write "The dynamics of musical expression", perhaps as a further unifying gesture. As he viewed his work synoptically at this time, it is tempting to think that he did not think of perception and the arts, but rather dynamics constituting each of the individual arts (shape, architecture, music).

It is for this reason that it is not at all surprising that Arnheim's last major book, The Power of the Center (1982/1988), was devoted to general principles of artistic composition. While he subtitles the work, A Study of Composition in the Visual Arts, he claimed that its principles were quite universal, and in fact when we examine some of the papers just cited, we can see the use of the same principles. Even so, the book does introduce a new terminology of "centers" and "vectors" which, while present, is not foundational in previous writings. Thus, Arnheim called the genesis of this book a "discovery," and not merely a gradual extension of the Lippsian ideas first occurring in the 'sixties and culminating in the book on architecture.

When The Power of the Center was published, some critics saw it as an attack on post-structuralist aesthetics because of its provocative title and seemingly intentional neglect of the metaphysical aspects as "center" or "presence." It would be interesting to know what Arnheim must have thought of some of his structuralist colleagues (Barthes, Foucault) who, before 1968, were more or less closely allied with Gestalt theory and then went on to develop such seemingly strange theories. But it seems clear that if one really wanted to, one could use the analysis of the book to support post-structuralist theses, by showing the compositional "loss of the center" which is accompanied by the metaphysical "loss of the center" (a la Derrida). As a matter of fact, this is none too far from Hans Sedlmayr's Die Verlust der Mitte (1948), a famous critique of modern art by an historian to which Arnheim was sympathetic (although less so in this particular work).

Like Art and Visual Perception, The Power of the Center was issued in a New Version (1988), so that as suggested earlier in this paper, the two really do form a



complementary pair. While Arnheim once intimated to a colleague that he "did not have another book in him," the Ann Arbor period was the most productive in his life. After 1988 he has published three more books, and dozens of articles.


Although Arnheim has been widely hailed for his achievement, when one looks to the subsequent generation and, in particular, to the students whom he taught in New York and in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one sees no intact continuation of his program. With respect to these psychologists, some students, some not, like Howard Gardner, John Kennedy, David Pariser, Ellen Winner, I think it can be safely said that none would call himself or herself an "Arnheimian."

Perhaps closest has been the work of Claire Golomb who, under Marianne Simmel at Brandeis University, extended Arnheim's observations on children's art with empirical demonstrations. The fact that Golomb was not directly a student points to the possibility that perhaps psychologists of art do not beget psychologists of art but rather are dependent upon generalists from whom they expand. This would seem to be the case because the two theorists of art whose work does bear most directly on Arnheim's work were mentored by his generalist contemporaries. These are the artist Augusto Garau, a disciple of Gaetano Kanizsa (1913-1993) and author of Color Harmonies (1984/1993) and Max Kobbert, student of Wolfgang Metzger (1899-1979) and author of Kunstpsychologie (1986).

The fact that Garau and Kobbert are Europeans then points to the possibility that Arnheim's ideas, like Gestalt ideas in general, have suffered in cultural transmission from their original European context (Ash, 1992). I have already pointed to some of the differences in reception suggested by the very structure of the Festschriften dedicated to Arnheim. Whatever the reason, for the continuation of the idea of a "Gestalt theory of art," continued foundational work is going to have to be done to lay bare the ideas to which Arnheim has pointed, and the direction he has tried to take them.


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