Meet Joe Campbell
Insights into the ideas of a mythologist
(more about Joseph Campbell)

Sources #5: Art and Creativity

Throughout his work, Joseph Campbell often returns to the nature of the creative process, saying that in the past the shaman was the poet and artist of the tribe, and that today the poet and artist is our shaman.

Like so much else in Campbell's life, this interest in art was shaped by early encounters. While on his European sojourn, he encountered the 20th-century art of Picasso, Brancusi, Braque, and others. He had a friend, Angela Gregory, who was a student of the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, who in turn had worked with Rodin.

Bourdelle was also a renowned teacher of esthetics, and taught Joe a thing or two on the topic.

Campbell's interest in the arts was solidified when he married the important dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher Jean Erdman. She was a former student, who had studied under Martha Graham and, with Campbell's encouragement, started her own company. Later, she and Campbell co-founded New York's Theater of the Open Eye in 1972.

Joseph Campbell, born 1904 and died 1987, was a quintessentially 20th-century man. Both the literature and the arts of the time were as deeply important to him as the "primitive" and medieval works that he drew on so frequently.


  1. Lovely tribute to a man who was so ahead of his time. I listen over and over to the interviews with him, which is the best way, to me, to get to all of his knowledge. To answer the question often asked, "Who would you have dinner with if it could be anyone?" Joseph Campbell, who I know was a warm, brilliant, and deeply spiritual man. Cheers, Charlotte

  2. Joe Campbell has been greatly influential in my life and profession. I found it interesting that at one point he wanted to be a novelist. And while he is not known as such, he has influenced thousands of novelists and screenplay writers, including me. Like Charlotte above, through his lectures I found him to be a deeply spiritual man. In a recent blog I described his influence on my life. He helped me find my bliss.


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