Stylish Notes on Art and Culture :: Rorschach

Today is Swiss Psychologist Hermann Rorschach's Birthday. Had he still been alive he would have been 129 years old. He is perhaps most famous for creating The Rorschach test, also knows as "The Ink Blot test." As a child he was known as “Klecks,” thanks to his love of klecksography – the art of turning inkblots into recognisable images. This childhood hobby was something that would later shape his career as a psychiatrist. This progressive test, a series of 10 inkblots, was reportedly designed to reflect unconscious parts of the personality. The psychologist would gain insight to his patients' thought processes as they reported to him what objects or figures they saw in each picture. 

According to the Independent " Rorschach began to wonder why some people have completely different responses to the same inkblots paintings, so he started showing the artworks to children in order to analyse their wildly varying responses. After years of conducting these tests while working as an assistant director at the regional psychiatric hospital in Herisau, Rorschach wrote Psychodiagnostik – a book describing how inkblot tests can be effectively used in psychoanalysis. Rorschach died less than a year after writing the ground-breaking work, killed by peritonitis brought on by a ruptured appendix. He was 37."

Each of the test's ten ink blots is bilaterally symmetrical, created that way on purpose, an important characteristic that is also echoed in Warhol's Rorschach paintings. In the mid 1980s Pop Icon Andy Warhol created a series of paintings to based on these well known inkblot tests. His were never meant to explore the deep consciousness of the viewer, and were meant simply as foray into abstract art. But his paintings became less about abstraction for the sake of abstraction, and more about what the viewer interpreted.

They're so lovely. Aren't they? I love Rorschach paintings. I think the one directly above looks like one of Georgia O'Keefe's skulls. Don't you? I wonder what this says of me? What do you see?

When my children were young we did a lot of Rorschach paintings. They're fun and so simple. We had such fun deciphering the images. For more on this click here.