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Art exhibit highlights Freud’s drawings

Lynn Gamwell, director of the Art Museum, holds a rare copy of a book by Sigmund Freud, which is showcased in a new exhibit of his works.
A new exhibit at the Binghamton University Art Museum traces the intriguing evolution of Sigmund Freud’s career from neurology to psychoanalysis by showcasing his late-19thcentury drawings of nerve tissue and cells, alongside his early-20th-century diagrams of the working human mind.

“The Freud we know really begins with The Interpretation of Dreams, but before that he worked in a neurology lab for 20 years,” said Lynn Gamwell, curator of the exhibit and director of the Binghamton University Art Museum.

When Sigmund Freud’s Drawings and Diagrams of the Mind: From Neurology to Psychoanalysis opened earlier this year at the New York Academy of Medicine, the New York Times called it the largest collection of Freud’s drawings ever assembled. Binghamton is the only other stop for the show, which was organized in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Freud’s birth in May.

In addition to Freud’s diagrams in rare books, the exhibit features several original drawings. Some have been published in rare books and periodicals, while others are facsimiles of original drawings on display at the Freud Museum in London.

The exhibit also includes images in books and journal articles that Freud wrote between 1876 and 1933. One can see his evolving interests as he moves from studies of animals to parts of the human central nervous system. Eventually, of course, Freud gave up lab work and went into psychology.

Only now are researchers discovering the neurological substrate he sought, Gamwell noted. Today, it’s far more common for people to study both neurology and psychology and to seek physical descriptions and explanations for psychological functions.

One highlight of the exhibit is a rare 1891 book, Aphasien, or On Aphasia, which Bruce Sklarew, a Washington, D.C.- area psychiatrist purchased for the exhibit.

Gamwell said he has loaned books to her for previous shows. This time, Sklarew asked her what she needed for the exhibit. She mentioned Aphasien, and he found a copy for sale.

“He said, ‘Is it worth $7,500?’ I said, ‘It’s priceless,’ ” Gamwell recalled.

David Skyrca, art director for University Publications, designed the catalog for the show, co-authored by Gamwell and Mark Solms, to look like the cover of that rare book.

The exhibit also includes a first edition of Traumdeutung, or The Interpretation of Dreams, the founding text of modern psychology, published in 1900.

By that point, Gamwell notes, Freud had shifted away from a diagnostic approach using diagrams. “It’s the talking cure,” she said. “You don’t look at the patient, you listen to him.”

Still, Freud did make some sketches depicting the id and ego in the 1920s. Those, too, are on display.

The show, a year or so in the making, is part of a series the University Art Museum has put together on Freud as well as the connections between art and science.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08