Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gestalt Theory, Cubism and Camouflage

Above Cover of Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye by Harvard psychologist and art theorist Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007). Having studied with Max Wertheimer and Wolfgang Köhler at the University of Berlin, he was the last surviving student of the founders of Gestalt psychology.

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Max Wertheimer and Pablo Picasso were contemporaries: The former, who co-founded Gestalt theory with Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler, was born in 1880; while the Spanish painter, who invented cubism with Georges Braque, was born in 1881. Both Gestalt theory and cubism emerged in the years that preceded World War I. Gestaltist Fritz Heider does not suggest that Wertheimer and Picasso were acquainted, or even that they knew about each other's discoveries, but only that "the perceptual phenomena with which they were dealing were the same" (Heider 1973, 71). However, it also seems likely, as he points out, that both realized that the factors that they were exploring were used in military camouflage. More