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Color Cure: Freud, Optical Science, and Design Theory
Lecture in English by Eric Anderson
Wednesday, 3 May 2017, p.m., Sigmund Freud Museum
Edmund Engelman’s iconic photographs of Berggasse 19 reveal much about interior decoration and its importance to Freud. What we miss, however, is color: the deep red paint on the walls and the polychromatic carpets, upholstery, and cushions that cover the furniture and floor. Why so much color in the office and on the couch? Color in nineteenth-century decoration was not only fashionable, but also a topic of scientific and aesthetic inquiry into the nature of vision and the effects of seeing colors on our bodies and minds. This lecture sketches a psychological history of color and speculates that for Freud, who was exposed to optical science and design theory through his mentor Ernst von Brücke, the deeply-hued, shimmering surfaces of the office offered visual aids to therapeutic introspection.
Eric Anderson is associate professor of art history at Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught previously at Parsons School of Design and Kendall College of Art and Design. He received his BA in art history and German Studies from Williams College and his Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University, where he wrote a dissertation on the Viennese design reformer Jakob von Falke. Current research and teaching focus on the history of modern design, museums and exhibitions, and the intersection of design with scientific discourses. Publications include an article on color theory in the journal West 86th (2015), an article on Ringstrasse-era exhibition culture in Centropa (2015), an essay on Viennese taste in the exhibition catalog Klimt und die Ringstrasse (2015), and several reviews of books and exhibitions on Viennese art and design.
As Fulbright-Freud Fellow, he is on the research project “Sigmund Freud, Interior Decorator,” which reevaluates the Berggasse interiors in relationship to nineteenth-century theories of color and the mind. At the Universität für angewandte Kunst he teaches a seminar on “Design and Psychology.”
Photo: Freud's couch at the Freud Museum London