The Interpretation of Drawings: Freud & the Visual Origins of Psychoanalysis

Interpretation of Drawings Banner

This exhibition invites the viewer to explore the role Sigmund Freud’s sketches and drawings played in the development of his psychoanalytic theories. His early drawings, produced when he was a medical student and shortly thereafter, are straightforwardly anatomical, based on careful observation. Turning to observing and describing the inner workings of the mind, which were by definition not subject to direct observation, Freud faced a more difficult challenge: How could unseen processes be represented? 

Here, looking at works that inspired him as well as at materials drawn from his unpublished and published writings and correspondence, we encounter pivotal moments and trace the evolution of his ideas as he wrestles with the problem of representation across his lifetime. This intimate encounter with Freud’s artwork and rarely seen drawings offers new, and sometimes surprising, insights into the man and mind behind some of the most influential and debated therapeutic techniques ever developed.


1Freud’s “Dream House”

This architectural drawing is one of several made for the Freud family by Felix Augenfeld (1893-1984) and Karl Hofmann (1893-?), dating to 1931. It represents a country house initially intended for Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham as well as for the rest of the Freud family. The house was only partially completed, and was eventually destroyed during the war by the Nazis—with only the architectural drawing surviving as a testament. The architectural floorplan of Freud’s “dream house” inspired the navigational floorplan above.

Plan for Freud's Country House
     Sigmund Freud Papers, Library of Congress