Margaret Hunter: a Jungian Analysis

By Anna Lisa Stone | University of St Andrews | School of Art History


Throughout this thesis, I have argued that it is possible to gain an intensified understanding of Margaret Hunter’s art through the theories of Carl Jung. Perhaps the best way to conclude, then, is to return to where we started, to Whisper. A Jungian analysis re-evaluates this obscurely powerful painting as a kind of self-portrait; and with that extra layer of understanding it gains added potency. The two faces are no longer anonymous masks, but the two conflicting halves of Hunter’s psyche, cleaved apart by temporarily compromising her identity as a mother in order to pursue artistic autonomy in Berlin. That dividing force manifests itself as the mother archetype, transformed from an unfathomable chasm to a subliminal eruption of Hunter’s feelings of hurt at being away from home and a defiant assertion of her intrinsic maternal identity. Whisper’s message of hope is also given renewed significance: the more masculine side, her inner animus, whispers to her female Self of harmonisation and integration, the bridge at their chins suggesting that this process is already underway.

Figure 39 Margaret Hunter, Whisper, 1988

Figure 40 Margaret Hunter, Another Conversation, 1999/2000

Significantly, the painting is balanced by a later one. In Another Conversation (1999/2000) the faces are fuller and resolved; they engage the viewer straight in the eye. The bridge is no longer a half-formed shadow, but solidly restated. The funnel-like symbol of the mother archetype is no longer dividing, but uniting: it is the centre and life-source of the painting, pumping colour and energy into every corner of the canvas. Instead of being regarded merely as a reworking of an old motif, Another Conversation can be seen as the triumphant celebration of the healing of the splits in Hunter’s life, evidence of a resolved, intensified and fully “individuated” sense of Self.

This dissertation has tested Margaret Hunter against a rigorous Jungian theory-based analysis and found a stimulatingly complex and multilayered artist who is integral to a fuller understanding of the history of Scottish art. It is the hope of this author that it may also have highlighted the distance still to go in providing criticism not only of Hunter’s work, but of other exciting and talented Scottish women artists who have been largely overlooked by history. In examining the art of Margaret Hunter and the cultural contexts in which she was working with a new and theoretical rigour, I hope I may have helped to make the whisper of female artistic achievement in Scotland a little more audible.

Copyright © Anna Lisa Stone 2011