Gertrude Stein once asked why certain painted pictures engrave themselves into our minds with fierce tenacity. Why do they unsettle us? The enigmatic art of Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte has long been subject to art historical and philosophical inquiry and mined by the worlds of advertising, illustration, and film. Yet Stein's questions are rarely asked. "Magritte’s Labyrinth" takes them on. It introduces a vital psychological perspective that has gone missing. Beyond manifest cognitive dissonance, it questions the powerful emotional impact of Magritte's painted imagery.
Trained in art history, philosophy, and nonclinical psychoanalysis, Ellen Handler Spitz, the author of "Magritte’s Labyrinth," was introduced to Magritte’s art by a New York psychologist who studied bereavement in childhood. Spitz found the images impossible to expunge. She reflects on them psychologically. She analyzes their subtle engagement with conflict, anxiety, and fear. She reads their humor and pathos as veils that both mask and disclose uncomfortable themes.
"Magritte’s Labyrinth" offers its readers intriguing new ways to understand their own idiosyncratic responses to this mysterious and fascinating art.
Dr. Ellen Handler Spitz is a writer and scholar who holds the Honors College Professorship at the University of Maryland (UMBC). She is the author of six books on the arts and psychology: "Art and Psyche" (Yale); "Image and Insight" (Columbia); "Museums of the Mind" (Yale); "Inside Picture Books" (Yale); "The Brightening Glance" (Pantheon); and "Illuminating Childhood" (Michigan). Her most recent research focuses on children’s aesthetic lives. She has held residential fellowships at the Getty Center in Santa Monica, California; the Bunting (Radcliffe) Institute at Harvard University; the Clark Art Institute; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; and the Camargo Foundation in France, among others. She is a Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. Her reviews have been published in "The New York Times Book Review" and "The New Republic" online; she contributes to the website "artcritical" and has written for "The Brooklyn Rail." Her work is translated into Italian, Japanese, and Serbian. She divides her time between New York City and Baltimore.
Her website is: www.ellenhandlerspitz.net.