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The Art of the Insane

The Discovery of the Art of the Insane, by John M. MacGregor. Princeton: at the University Press, 1989, 390 pp., 29 color and 168 black and white illustrations.

THIS BOOK IS A treasure trove of information, a masterpiece of detective work and intellectual archaeology: John M. MacGregor has undoubtedly succeeded in his “historical reconstruction of the process” whereby the art of the insane “entered consciousness for the first time as a reality of scientific and aesthetic significance.” Of special interest to an art audience is MacGregor’s theory of the psychiatrist Etienne Georget’s influence on Géricault’s paintings of psychotic patients, and the meaning of these pictures; his comparison of the relationship of the popular 19th-century British painter John Martin’s works to those of his insane brother, Jonathan Martin; and his account of “insanity in the context of Romanticism” and, later,

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