Monday, January 4, 2010

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis

In the most recent Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, I read an article by Linney Wix about Friedl Dicker-Brandeis.

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944) was an art educator who taught art to children in the Terezin concentration camp north of Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia between 1942-1944. Although she was formally an art teacher, her approach resulted in a practice that was similar to art therapy.

She invited the children to discover their own forms of expression and waited for what would emerge. For some children distraction from the daily traumas of camp life may have been enough; others may have used the art lessons to create beautiful pictures, to remember a past family joy, or to image a future reunion with a parent.

Although Dicker-Brandeis took charge of scrounging materials, she understood that her students would take just what they needed from each art class. She offered herself, all the materials she could find, and the invitation. Then, providing guidance as she saw fit, she accepted what the children created as valid. In this way she supported their spiritual and artistic strengths and helped them contend with the conditions under which they were living. Providing access to beauty through art classes was her way of helping children to psychologically survive the war and its circumstances.

"I Never Saw Another Butterfly" is a representation of those surviving pictures, which are now housed at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Illustrating the pictures, as it were, are collections of poetry and prose, and excerpts from a few journals.

It is amazing that this art and collection of writing survived!

Thank you, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis

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