Narcissism in contemporary society: Implications and interpretations of Art psychology

Dynamische-Psychiatrie-die-Zeitschrift-der-Deutschen-Akademie-für-Psychoanalyse-DAP-e.-V.Narcissism in contemporary society: Implications and interpretations of Art psychology,  Conference Proceedings, 17th World Congress of the World Association for Dynamic Psychiatry. Multidisciplinary Approach to and Treatment of Mental Disorders: Myth or Reality?, St. Petersburg, May 14-17, 2014, In Dynamische Psychiatrie. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychotherapie, Psychoanalyse und Psychiatrie – International  Journal for Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, and Psychiatry, Berlin: Pinel Verlag GmbH, 1-3, Nr. 266-268, 2015, pp.35-56.

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Irene Battaglini (1969), Psychologist, scientist and professor of psychology of ART, painter and art critic, lives in Florence (Italy). She has focused his research on the creative dimensions of language imaginal and on the contribution of dynamic psychology with a thorough reading of the problems of contemporary art.

Irene Battaglini is graduated in Clinical Psychology in Florence and she is CEO and Founder of Polo Psicodinamiche – School of Psychotherapy Erich Fromm, in Prato (recognized by the Italian Ministry of University and Research and Training Agency accredited by the Region of Tuscany), in which coordinates projects of Higher Education in Psychology of Art, Professional Skills.

She published the essay in Psychology of Art: Il Corpo-Sudario, about transition dynamics from canvas to the performances in contemporary art (Aracne, 2015).

Founder and editing coordinator of “Frontiera_di_pagine_ magazine_on_line”, she is a member of the Scientific Committee of the editorial series “L’Immaginale” for publishing Aracne, Rome, for which she published the essay Psicodinamica del Sé e delle relazioni familiari (eds, 2012) and the essay Frontiera di Pagine (2013) together with Andrea Galgano, which collects essays and speeches of art, poetry and literature, and the catalogs Radici di fiume (Polo Psicodinamiche, 2013) and Downtown (Aracne, 2015), an intense symbiotic path of art and poetry about american urban regions.

She participate at the 17th World Congress of the World Association for Dynamic Psychiatry with a paper on Narcissism in Contemporary Art and Society, within psychodynamic patterns of expression of Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly, Pablo Picasso, Lucio Fontana, published on Dynamische Psychiatrie. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychotherapie, Psychoanalyse und Psychiatrie – International Journal for Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, and Psychiatry, Berlin: Pinel Verlag GmbH, vol. 48, 1-3, Nr. 266-268, 2015, pp. 35-56.

Vicepresident of the International Erich Fromm Foundation, scientific and cultural institution based in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Irene Battaglini is also member of the Tuscan regional intellectual health and social professions Committee, and past Councilor of Tuscany Order of Psychologists.

She features four painting exhibitions in Prato and Florence: Downtown (2016), Radici di Fiume (2012), Re-generation (2007), Re-visions (2003).


The purpose of this paper is to highlight the dynamics of regression, and especially the narcissistic dynamics, that underlie the production of the work in contemporary art, focusing on the dynamics of development of the “loss of the figurative.” The work is built around the premises for a possible re-vision of the psychology of art in order to “imaginal thinking” and the mythical and archetypal perspective, to get to the manifestation of these aspects in the work of some famous authors, especially starting from work of Picasso and Duchamp, arriving to Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Lucio Fontana. This contribution gives an idea for reflection, to postpone to a later study, on how aggression and emotion traceable in contemporary post-modern art (kinetic, performance, the body art), can be originated from a form of a narcissistic wound – on that “shroud that we persist in calling canvas” – inflicted by the domain of the mediatic metaphor, which tends to renunciation of the ”discrete object” (increasingly dematerialized), in favour of a “body-subject” always most used by the artist in his task of desecrating and subverting the conventions and expressive pre-existing codes.


One of the contributions of the psychology of art lies in illuminating the path that leads to the discovery of the complex dynamics that govern the relationship between Art and Psyche. If the creative process is realized with the personification tangible or perceptible a work called just “artwork”, by one or more authors, the dynamic psychology does not shirk the task of investigating the links that underlie the psyche of the contemporary authors and their talent. The technique, the need for expression and communication, the body in movement and language, metaphorical thinking and clairvoyance of the artist, are all elements that are included in the largest and most fascinating aesthetic experience, are confronted with the problem of escape of God from the temple: the pursuit of beauty has given way to anxiety over limit, in a pursuit of the artistic act exasperated understood in a phenomenological sense, aesthetic, pragmatic, which inevitably requires the folding of man on himself, plagued by a pervasive feeling vacuum and a serious disqualification of the “Self” in favour of the “Ego”. The psychology of art can make use of “pensiero immaginale” (imaginative thinking, in James Hillman), of the archetypal psychology and of the philosophical investigation to understand the nature social and narcissistic of the contemporary art. Starting from the work of Picasso and Duchamp, passing Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Lucio Fontana, we can reflect on how the sharp emotion applied to the coldest contemporary art forms (kinetics art, performance, body art), not is the result of a lust of money, visibility and presentism, but the consequence of a certain condition: the narcissistic wound of form in favour of the superegoic and uncontested domain of the mediatic metaphor. Paper is organized into three parts:

  1. “The architrave and the leaf”. The myth of Narcissus. How does the narcissistic mode acts (critical review of the main psychodynamic theories). Narcissus in its depictions. A methodological premise.
  2. “Signo ergo sum”. How the narcissistic mode expresses in Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon and Lucio Fontana artworks.

III. “Of Passion and Shadow”. Final Examinations and Conclusions.


Bacon, Fontana, Imaginal, Narcissism, Psychology of Art, Twombly, Warhol

Read more IRENE BATTAGLINI – NARCISSISM Narcissism in contemporary society Implications and interpretations of Art psychology

Irene Battaglini on Narcissism in contemporary society: Implications and interpretations of Art psychology

a cura di Andrea Galgano e Irene Battaglini