Emeritus psychology professor Pavel Machotka wins systemwide emeriti award

pavel machotka
Pavel Machotka, emeritus professor of psychology
landscape painting
Machotka's 2008 painting "Strade e Cipressi."

Pavel Machotka, professor emeritus of psychology at UC Santa Cruz, has won a 2015 Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award that honors UC emeriti professors in the humanities and social sciences.

His award is the seventh for a retired UC Santa Cruz professor since the awards program began in 1983. Only UCLA and UC Irvine have won as many. Also winning this year is Elizabeth Colson, professor emerita of anthropology, at UC Berkeley.

The Panunzio awards are named for the late professor of sociology at UCLA often described as the architect of the UC Retirement System. He was particularly active in improving pensions and stipends for his fellow emeriti.  The award honors research and activities since retirement and includes a $5,000 prize. 

Machotka joined the UC Santa Cruz faculty in 1970 and founded the Psychology of Aesthetics Department. He also served as provost of Porter College when it was known as College Five and served as chair of the Psychology Department and of the Academic Senate in 1992-94.

Born in Prague

He was born in Prague in 1936 shortly before the Nazi invasion. He fled Czechoslovakia with his family in 1948 after the Soviet communists took over. He attended the University of Chicago at age 16 where he saw first saw what would define his career, a Cézanne painting. He went on to earn his Ph.D. at Harvard.

Machotka is considered one of the great scholars in the field of the psychology of aesthetics. His life-long love of Cézanne’s art has resulted in lectures on the French painter around the world, a UC Santa Cruz course, and two published books.

As a painter himself, Machotka offers insights into Cézanne’s working methods. His scholarly work since retiring from UCSC in 1994 has concentrated on the psychology of artistic creativity in general and the genius of Cézanne's paintings in particular.  One of his pioneering achievements is his approach to examining artworks using psychological means and analyzing how artist, context, and art medium all interact.

Cézanne motiffs

An important contribution to the field was identifying numerous Cézanne motifs, especially in and around Aix-en-Provence, France. His interest in locating the sites and comparing them to the artist's realization on canvas led to the publication of Cezanne: Landscape into Art. He has also published Cézanne: The Eye and the Mind.

Since retiring, Machotka has given talks, participated in international congresses, served on editorial and advisory boards, including Ph.D. dissertation committees and two scholarly journals concerned with the psychology of artistic creativity. He has also has worked to strengthen the scholarly capacities of two universities in the Czech Republic. 

Bill Domhoff, UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor of psychology, who won the 2007 Panunzio award, nominated Machotka.

Michael Nauenberg, president of the UC Santa Cruz Emeriti Association and a Panunzio winner in 2013, said that after reading Machotka’s book on Cézanne as part of the nominating process, he invited him to Santa Cruz from his home in Prague to speak at the association’s bi-annual emeriti talk. Machotka will speak on "Psychology and Art, and the Case of Cézanne,” November 10 at the Music Recital Hall.

This year’s award brings to seven the number of UC Santa Cruz professors to win the Panunzio Award. In addition to Domhoff (sociology) and Nauenberg (physics), the other winners are: Hayden White, history of consciousness, 2001; Thomas Pettigrew, psychology, 2009; Harry Berger Jr., literature, 2010; and Elliot Aronson, psychology, 2011.

High-caliber faculty

“The stellar record of our campus in winning the Panunzio award is simply a reflection of the high caliber of the young faculty who were attracted to our campus early on, and who now are major scholars and leaders in their respective fields,” Nauenberg said.