Sex, love and death in the time of Freud:a psychoanalytic exploration of life and art of Egon Schiele

Sex, Love and Death in the time of Freud: A psychoanalytic exploration of the life and art of Egon Schiele (1890 – 1918)

“Alles ist lebendig tot” (“All is living dead”) Egon Schiele, 1914

“Wenn du das Leben aushalten willst, so richte Dich auf den Tod ein” (“If you want to bear life you have to prepare for death“) Freud, 1915

The exceptionally gifted painter Egon Schiele was by the end of his short life Austria’s most celebrated artist. Alongside Oskar Kokoschka he was one of the first expressionists. What emerged in his art was something extraordinary for his time when the suppression of the sexual nature of the human being was part of life. Schiele challenged existing norms and during his career he shocked the Viennese by shamelessly violating existing taboos with his sexually explicit drawings and paintings. In doing so, he tried to plunge the depth of sexuality, male and female, just as Freud did at the time when he published his “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” in 1905. Inherent in his art was also a pre-occupation with death, something that emerged across other creative areas at the time, as well as in Freud’s writings.

The paper makes an attempt to explore psychoanalytically Schiele’s life as well as gaining some understanding of the link between sex and death whilst looking at the existing culture and morals at the end of the Hapsburg Empire.

Helga Coulter