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The SIPE

International scientific society, our purpose is to maintain the dynamism of Art Therapy.

The aims of the Society are to establish and maintain links between the various specialists interested in the field of psychiatry and art-therapy, psychoanalysis, psychology and sociology.

Society life


REMEMBERING IRENE JAKAB (1919-2011)

“The 18 of June this year Irene Jakab left us. Everybody knew her as one of the founders of our Society, an industrious participant, speaker of the SIPE conferences and an enthusiastic fighter for the field of psychopathology of expression.

Irene Jakab was born on 15 of July, 1919 in Nagyvárad (now Oradea Mare – Romania), attending the schools there. She obtained her medical diploma in Transylvania, Kolozsvár (now: Cluj) beginning her medical career at Neurological and Psychiatric University Clinic there beside Professor István Környey. After the Second World War, the Clinic moved from Transylvania to Pécs, Hungary. In the mean time she graduated from philosophy-psychology “cum laude”, and in 1948 she obtained her M.A. from psychology and pedagogy with “summa cum laude.” Having conflicts with the communist regime she left Hungary for Switzerland and later for Paris. Her medical career abroad started at the Harvard University Boston in the USA in 1966. After completing her studies at the Menninger School of Psychiatry, she moved to Pittsburgh where, for the first one in the United States, she developed the John Merck Program for mentally retarded psychotic children. She was an active professor at the Pittsburgh University until 1992. Having retired, she returned to Harvard Boston teaching psychiatry, and became the consultant of the Mclean Teaching Hospital.

From her very rich scientific achievement I selected some most significant ones. Her Pittsburgh activity is reflected by a book “Mental Retardation” (Karger, Basel 1982). She edited and wrote valuable chapters on differential diagnostics and organizational aspects of the subject.

However, her main field of interest and activity was the psychopathology of visual expression as it was discussed in her book “Drawings and Paintings of Mental Patients” published in German and French (Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1956). Its revised and enlarged version was re-edited and published as “Pictorial Expression in Psychiatry”( Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 1998) in Hungarian and English. The text is based on the collection of Professor Camillo Reuter from the Pécs University Psychiatric Clinic. The material of the collection was made by patients of the Clinic treated from 1920 until 1959. The thought-provoking and expressive pictures reflect the  hospital atmosphere and conditions, the therapy and patients’ attitude of the age. She discussed the change of style f.i. when patients ameliorating from abstract style change to realistic one. The book dealt with the manifested and latent, symbolic and compositional aspects of the pictures. In the new edition, among many new details there is a 30-year follow up study of a schizophrenic, whose talent developed in the course of the treatment, becoming later an artist. This book of Irene Jakab became a classic of the field cited often beside Prinzhorn, Volmat and other pioneers of psychopathology of expression.

She wrote a very interesting paper and made an impressive film on “Imaginary Dwellings” (1971) showing the special buildings built by mental patients. She introduced us to the peculiar towers of Simon Rhodia in Los Angels, built in the course of 35 years. Another significant building she studied was made of broken discs and glass pieces by a French schizophrenic next to Chartres.

Besides being one of the founders (1959), and later Vice President of SIPE, she founded and became the president of the American Society of Psychopathology of Expression and Art Therapy, ASPE in 1964. As an organizer and editor, she did a lot for the development of psychopathology of visual expression. She organized the Congresses of the American Society and edited and published their texts. The editor of SIPE’s official organ “Confinia Psychiatrica” is active till its end. The four volumes of Karger’s books containing valuable papers on various aspects of art and psychopathology, of art therapy are also the results of her enthusiastic editorial activity.

She always came and spoke at the six Hungarian SIPE Colloquia. She remained faithful to Pécs and its University Psychiatric Clinic visiting it always when in Hungary. Though she spoke many languages, in spite of her long stay abroad, she conserved her Hungarian perfectly.

Irene Jakab was acknowledged worldwide. This honour was expressed by the awards she got, that of SIPE, and the Benjamin Rush award of the American Psychiatric Society, receiving it for the work she did for the brain damaged, mentally and emotionally disturbed children.

Irene Jakab was active till the end of her life planning an International Congress in 2012. I hope not to exaggerate by stating that Irene Jakab devoted her life to science and was active in the field during her whole life.”

Dr István Hárdi (Budapest)

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