On February 22, 2014, the world witnessed the passing of renown Art Therapy pioneer and social realist painter, Edith Kramer. Kramer was born in Vienna on August 29th, 1916, some two decades before making her way to America as a political refugee in the mid to late 1930’s. Her early experience with art came as a result of studying with noted art teacher, Freidl Dickers, whose own work and philosophical views have been suggested to reflect aspects of art therapy, due to her work with children at Terezin. Some, however, speculate that this was an early influence that may have played a significant role in helping to shape Kramer’s later work. At age 18, Kramer followed Dickers to Prog, where she continued to study under Dickers for a time.
Video – Edith Kramer: Art Tells The Truth
Once Kramer reached the United States, she resided in New York, where she taught sculpture for three years at The Little Red School House in New York City. Later, she worked in a machine shop in the Soho district during the second World War. It was here that she would sometimes sketch pictures of others in the workplace, further exposing her interests in social realism. It wasn’t until 1947 that she visited the caves at Lascaux, a complex of caves located in Southern France, near the village of Montignac. There she came face to face with some of the oldest art work known to exist. She said of these cave paintings that they were an example of the universal language of art.
Kramer was 33-years old when she returned to America and took a position at the Wiltwyck School for Boys. It was here that Dr. Viola Bernard bestowed upon her the title of art therapist. She later worked in the child psychiatric ward at Jacobi hospital for 13-years and the Jewish Guild for the blind for 14-years. Since her return to America, she was known for working with disturbed children, which gave her a prime opportunity to begin to develop a foundation for integrating psychoanalytic theory into her work. Kramer was a follower of the teachings of Sigmund Freud–especially the idea of sublimation. She also put forth the notion that the healing factor of successful art therapy was found within the art process, and believed that the gratification achieved from the outcome of the final art product benefits the individual undergoing art therapy. This further lead Kramer to more fully develop the concept that became known as the “art therapists third hand”. The idea being that the Art Therapist plays a role in facilitating another person’s artistic process. The example often spoken of in this respect is that of the art therapist helping someone mix paints to obtain a desired color. In this capacity, the art therapist is helping the person resume the art process.
Edith Kramer – Art Therapy Video
From 1973 to 2005, Kramer held a position as an Adjunct Professor of Art Therapy in the Graduate Art Therapy Program at New York University. In 1976, Kramer became the founder of the art therapy graduate program at the University. She was also the author of a number of influential papers and books in her field, such as her 1958 published work, “Art Therapy in a Children’s Community” and her 1971 publishing of “Art as Therapy with Children”. In 1996, Kramer received her honorary doctorate from Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. She held a position, in Washington, D. C., as an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Art Therapy Program at The George Washington University . She also received the honorary Life Member award from The American Art Therapy Association. Finally, the painter and sculptor who was Edith Kramer returned to her home in Austria. It was there that she spent her remaining days before passing away at age 97. Those who knew her and loved her work shall surely miss her, even though her contribution to the world of art and art therapy lives on.