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  Museu de Imagens do Inconsciente [Museum of Images of the Unconscious]        

Inaugurated on 29 May 1952, the Museum of Images of the Unconscious is the creation of the psychiatrist Nise da Silveira (1906-1999), and the fruit of her work at the Pedro II Psychiatric Centre in the suburb of Engenho de Dentro, Rio de Janeiro, at which she began to work in 1944. A "living centre for study and research", according to the definition of the doctor, which brought together a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures of the patients at the Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation Sector (STOR), directed by her between 1946 and 1974. Rejecting traditional psychiatric treatments, Nise da Silveira made use of anti-psychiatry theories, the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and developments in the specific area of occupational theory for the rehabilitation of mentally ill patients. Stressing the importance of emotional contact and creative expression in the treatment process, she opened a series of workshops within the STOR (bookbinding, music, modelling, painting, theatre, etc.), directing the monitors not to interfere with the output of the patients. On 9 September 1946, the painting workshop, the embryo of the museum, began to operate under the supervision of the doctor and the painter Almir Mavignier (1925- ). The Museum of Images of the Unconscious continues to exist to this day by virtue of the "Society of the Friends of the Museum of the Unconscious", its international fame and the artistic success of many works and artists.

Born in Maceió and graduating from the Faculty of Medicine of Bahia, in 1926, Nise da Silveira began her career as a psychiatrist at the Hospital da Praia Vermelha, today Pinel, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1933. During the Communist Revolt of 1935, she was arrested as a sympathiser with the movement. She was imprisoned for a year and four months, meeting the writer Graciliano Ramos (1892-1953), who refers to her in his book Memórias do Cárcere [Memories of Prison]. In 1944, she resumed her work as a psychiatrist, at the Centro Pedro II, in Engenho de Dentro. The success of her work with patients and the creation of a team led her to plan the Casa das Palmeiras, inaugurated in 1956, to provide support for former patients of the psychiatric hospital. At this institution, which was without ties to insurance companies and a kind of "free territory ", Dr. Nise expanded her working methods, based on creative activity, and the coordination between reason and emotion, body and psyche. If art occupies a central place in the therapeutic practice used, according to her, the intention had never been and was not to produce works of art or artists, but to offer ways for patients to express internal conflicts through a symbolic language. With open doors and windows, without nurses or professionals in uniform, full of animals, her "co-therapists", the Casa das Palmeiras represented an unprecedented experience in the field of psychiatry. The Institute operates at its third headquarters, today in the rua Sorocaba, in the suburb of Botafogo. Most of the patients attending the institute do not return to the psychiatric hospital.

Despite Dr. Nise's care not to issue artistic judgements on the works, but rather to concentrate on the scientific problems raised by this output, these works, produced first at STOR and then at the Casa das Palmeiras, were greeted enthusiastically by the art world of the time. The regular visits of the critic Mário Pedrosa (1900-1981) to the painting workshop, taking with him writers and artists such as the poet Murilo Mendes (1901-1975), the painters Ivan Serpa (1923-1973) and Abraham Palatnik (1928- ), and the director of the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (MAM/SP), Leon Dégand, were responsible for a series of exhibitions of the painters of Engenho de Dentro. In 1947, the salon of the former Ministry of Education and Culture showed 245 works. In an article published in the newspaper Correio da Manhã on 7 February 1947, Mário Pedrosa was emphatic with regard to the quality of the works: "(...) no one shall prevent these works from being, moreover, harmonious, seductive, dramatic, alive or beautiful, indeed from constituting genuine works of art". In 1949, a new exhibition was held, this time at the MAM/SP: 9 Artists of Engenho de Dentro, a collection of works selected by Dégand. These met with another enthusiastic reaction from Pedrosa in 1950: "The artists of Engenho de Dentro overcome any respect for established academic conventions and any routines of the naturalist and photographic vision. None of them take the prescriptions of the school into consideration". In 1950, works of the museum were exhibited in Psychopathological Art at the 1st International Congress of Psychiatry in Paris. In 1957, Jung himself inaugurated an exhibition of paintings of images of the Museum of the Unconscious at the 2nd International Congress of Psychiatry in Zürich.

The work of Nise da Silveira at the head of the Museum of Images of the Unconscious revealed to the public a series of artists and works of undeniable value, even as often difficult to classify from a stylistic viewpoint. "Not being affiliated to any schools'", Dr. Nise stated, "our painters shift from abstraction to figurativism and vice versa according to the situation with regard to the external world and their internal experiences". Arthur Amora spent a brief period at the hospital during the 1940s. Of the initial works, copies of Domino boxes, he moved on to geometric works in black-and-white, produced between 1949 and 1951. Emygdio de Barros (1895-1986) attended the workshop in 1947, and from then onwards did not stop working, painting some 3,000 pictures, above all landscapes in vibrant colours. Raphael (1912-1979), admitted to hospital aged 19, was the only one who has/had studied drawing, which was his strong point: still lifes and landscapes, objects, plants, human figures. Adelina (1916-1984) executed paintings and sculptures in which female images predominated (the "great mother", an archetypal theme in clinical cases of psychotic women, according to Dr. Nise). The works of Isaac (1906-1966) are eminently figurative: landscapes and seascapes. In the works of Carlos Pertuis (1910-1977), forms are framed, with the volume rigorously defined in geometric works and complex compositions.

Fernando Diniz (1918-1999), one of the most famous artists of the group, painted letters, numbers, landscapes, interiors and geometric compositions. The theme of the house, of the oneiric house which never existed, is a constant feature of his work: the floor (which defines the basic lines of the composition), the candelabras, armchairs, pianos, aquariums, etc. As he stated: "First I made a piece of each corner and then I joined everything together in a single painting (...). It's like learning the letters "a, e, i, o, u". We learn them one by one and then join them together to make a word. The letters are easier to join together than the images. The figures are harder to join together. We immediately know the letters, we never know the figures entirely ".

Updated on 16/01/2009