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Art and Images in Psychiatry
October 2009

Mother and Child

Author Affiliations

James C.HarrisMD

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(10):1044. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.143

It does something which no other book on art criticism . . . accomplishes. It provides an intelligent objective criterion for perceiving the values of paintings. It does this not by laying down rules, but by showing what one should look for and what is irrelevant to his seeing.—John Dewey on The Art in Painting1

Albert Coombs Barnes (1872-1951), a physician-scientist best known as the codeveloper of the antiseptic Argyrol (silver vitellin),2had a long-standing interest in psychology and in art. He was an early advocate for Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis and avidly studied Pragmatism, the psychology of William James, before turning in 1917 to John Dewey and enrolling in his courses at Columbia University, which emphasized a scientific approach to education. Workdays at his business lasted 6 hours and were followed by an education seminar for all employees that focused on psychology and aesthetics; he installed artwork in his factory. Barnes was particularly interested in the art education of the average person. In 1922 he established the Barnes Foundation for the advancement of the appreciation of the fine arts. Dewey joined him as its director of education in 1923. Barnes is recognized today as an art educator and for the art collection that he amassed in the beginning of the 20th century, which is valued at more than $6 billion today.

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