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The Body Electric: Erwin Osen and Egon Schiele

Leopold Museum / Vienna / Art

In 1930, in Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud described pathology as “cases in which parts of a person’s own body, even portions of his own mental life—his perceptions, thoughts and feelings—appear alien to him.” Decades earlier, in turn-of-the-century Vienna, portraiture proliferated as many artists looked to bodies to understand the mind. The city’s growing psychological community took notice. Egon Schiele’s depictions of himself and his subjects—distorted, visceral, erotic, harrowed—were collected by Dr. Adolf Kronfeld for study. The work of one of Schiele’s models, Erwin Osen, a former psychiatric patient, was commissioned by Dr. Stefan Jellinek, who studied the dangers of electricity as well its potential therapeutic benefits to traumatized soldiers. As Osen told Schiele, the doctor was interested in “pathological expression in portraiture.” This exhibition presents newly found drawings by Osen alongside his more famous friend’s works to explore how psychology, pathology, and its connection to physicality are represented in these artworks. —C.J.F.

Leopold Museum Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien, Austria
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