Neurosis of the new – Vienna in 1900

Egon Schiele  The Family (Self Portrait), 1918 Oil on canvas © Belvedere, Vienna

Egon Schiele
The Family (Self Portrait), 1918
Oil on canvas
© Belvedere, Vienna

Forget Klimt’s lavish gold paintings, and think rather of Freud, neurosis and hysteria. That is what Vienna at the turn of the century reflected. In fact, as National Gallery director, Dr Nicholas Penny joked at the press opening of Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 (until 12 Jan 2014), there have seldom been more “distressed, demented, deluded and deceased people” on show together! Vienna was a city transformed by immigrants after the monarchy had declared equal rights for all citizens in 1867 and portraiture was the means of declaring your identity in this society. The city became an incredible hothouse of artists finding a new modernist idiom in what had been a rigid social order defined by class, but they reflected all the anxiety of their displaced subjects. That brief flowering of art resulted in work that has a raw and direct power, but is seldom easy viewing: Egon Schiele’s imagined family; a nude self-portrait by Richard Gerstl, a promising young artist soon to commit suicide; Oskar Kokoschka’s portraits which critics of the time decried as smelling of decay or the atonal composer Arnold Schönberg’s blue self-portrait.  The faces that stare back at you are not the polite elite, rather the tortured souls about to face a holocaust.

Oskar Kokoschka  Children Playing, 1909 Oil on canvas Lehmbruck Museum, Duisberg (573/1965) © courtesy of Lehmbruck Museum, Duisberg / photographer: Bernd Kirtz / Fondation  Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2013

Oskar Kokoschka
Children Playing, 1909
Oil on canvas
Lehmbruck Museum, Duisberg (573/1965)
© courtesy of Lehmbruck Museum, Duisberg / photographer: Bernd Kirtz / Fondation
Oskar Kokoschka/ DACS 2013

Richard Gerstl  Nude Self-Portrait with Palette, 1908 Oil on canvas © Leopold Museum Private Foundation, Vienna

Richard Gerstl
Nude Self-Portrait with Palette, 1908
Oil on canvas
© Leopold Museum Private Foundation, Vienna

Advertisements

One thought on “Neurosis of the new – Vienna in 1900

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s