Sexuality

Early twentieth century Vienna was bursting with new ideas and beliefs about almost every aspect of society, including sexuality. As Sigmund Freud defined erotic obsession for a new millennium, artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele explored human sexuality in images of unparalleled and startling frankness.

The Vienna of 1900 liberated and celebrated the individual above all else. Enlightenment ideas moderated the dictates of religion, paving the way for recognition of human complexity.

ColApImg_EXHI014911
Gustav KLIMT
Study for The three ages of woman (c. 1905)
charcoal
182.0 x 90.0 cm
Private collection, Melbourne

Developments in science, including Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, coupled with bourgeois liberalism and the growth of a more secular society, led to a reinterpretation of the forces governing human behaviour and their expression in both science and the arts.

Sigmund Freud developed his theory of human behaviour motivated by the instinctual drives of Eros and Thanatos (sex and death). Defining the human psyche in terms of sexual gratification, he argued that neurosis and mental illness resulted from its repression.

Freud formulated the role of infant sexuality and also devised a 'talking cure' for psychological therapy which, in 1896, he termed psychoanalysis. Freud's seminal work The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1899, forged a new understanding of the unconscious mind and the psyche.

Exhibition highlights

ColApImg_EXHI013493
Egon SCHIELE
Austria 1890–1918
Self-portrait with hands on chest 1910
charcoal, watercolour and gouache
44.8 x 31.2 cm
Kunsthaus Zug, Stiftung Sammlung Kamm
ColApImg_EXHI012197
Gustav KLIMT
Austria 1862–1918
Fritza Riedler 1906
oil on canvas
152.0 x 134.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
ColApImg_EXHI013492
Egon SCHIELE
Austria-Hungary 1890–1918
Portrait of the painter Hans Massmann 1909
oil and metallic paint on canvas
120.0 x 110.0 cm
Kunsthaus Zug
Stiftung Sammlung Kamm
ColApImg_EXHI013309
Koloman MOSER (designer)
Austria-Hungary 1868-1918
WIENER WERKSTÄTTE, Vienna (manufacturer)
Austria-Hungary 1903-32
Flower basket (Model no. S 781) 1906
silver
21.3 x 7.2 x 4.3 cm
Asenbaum Collection
ColApImg_EXHI014746
Josef HOFFMANN (designer)
Austria-Hungary 1870–1956
WÜRBEL & CZOKALLY (CARL WÜRBEL), Vienna (manufacturer)
Austria-Hungary 1892–1913
VINZENZ MAYER’S SÖHNE, Vienna (retailer)
Austria-Hungary 1810–1922
Sports trophy 1902
silver, gilt, malachite
26.0 x 7.1 cm diameter
Private collection
© Josef Hoffmann Estate
ColApImg_EXHI012867
George MINNE
Belgium 1866-1941
Kneeling youth 1898
plaster
79.5 x 19.4 x 44.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Women’s Association to commemorate their 50th Anniversary and the 150th Anniversary of the NGV and with the assistance of the proceeds of the National Gallery of Victoria Annual Dinners, 2011 (2011.10)
Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
ColApImg_EXHI014728
Egon SCHIELE
Self-portrait with peacock waistcoat, standing 1911
gouache, watercolour and crayon
51.5 x 34.5 cm
Private collection
ColApImg_EXHI014224
Oskar KOKOSCHKA
Austria-Hungary/Czechoslovakia/England 1886-1980
Conte Verona (1910)
oil on canvas
70.6 x 58.7 cm
Private collection, New York
Approved: Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
ColApImg_EXHI012902
Otto WAGNER (designer)
Austria 1841–1918
Alexander ALBERT (manufacturer)
Austria active c.1904
Chair for Dr Karl Lueger 1904
Rosewood (Dalbergia sp.), mother-of-pearl, leather
98.5 x 63 x 59.5 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Estate of Karl Lueger, 1910
Enver Hirsch
ColApImg_EXHI014616
Unknown
Gustav Mahler conducts his Symphony No. 1 in D major
Cartoon from Wiener Illustrated Front Page of 25 November 1900
Photo: Imagno
IMAGNO/Austrian Archives
ColApImg_EXHI012199
Gustav KLIMT
Austria 1862–1918
Johanna Staude 1917–18
oil on canvas
70.0 x 50.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
ColApImg_EXHI012200
Koloman MOSER
Austria 1868–1918
Self-portrait c.1916–17
oil painting on canvas on cardboard
74.0 x 50.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
ColApImg_EXHI012201
Oskar KOKOSCHKA
The painter Carl Moll 1861-1945 1913
oil on canvas
128.0 x 95.5 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
Approved: Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
ColApImg_EXHI014409
Koloman MOSER (designer)
Austria 1868-1918
Plate from Flächen Schmuck series, published in Die Quelle 1901
26 x 30
National Gallery of Australia Research Library
ColApImg_EXHI014461
Koloman MOSER (designer)
Austria 1868-1918
Plate from Flächen Schmuck series, published in Die Quelle 1901
26 x 30
National Gallery of Australia Research Library
ColApImg_EXHI013996
Dagobert PECHE (designer)
Austria 1887–1923
WIENER WERKSTÄTTE, Vienna (manufacturer)
Austria 1903–1932
Jewel box (S 4880) 1920
silver-gilt
38.4 x 19.7 x 12.7 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Purchase, Anonymous gift, 1978
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, New York
ColApImg_EXHI013493 Egon SCHIELE
Austria 1890–1918
Self-portrait with hands on chest 1910
charcoal, watercolour and gouache
44.8 x 31.2 cm
Kunsthaus Zug, Stiftung Sammlung Kamm
ColApImg_EXHI012197 Gustav KLIMT
Austria 1862–1918
Fritza Riedler 1906
oil on canvas
152.0 x 134.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
ColApImg_EXHI013492 Egon SCHIELE
Austria-Hungary 1890–1918
Portrait of the painter Hans Massmann 1909
oil and metallic paint on canvas
120.0 x 110.0 cm
Kunsthaus Zug
Stiftung Sammlung Kamm
ColApImg_EXHI013309 Koloman MOSER (designer)
Austria-Hungary 1868-1918
WIENER WERKSTÄTTE, Vienna (manufacturer)
Austria-Hungary 1903-32
Flower basket (Model no. S 781) 1906
silver
21.3 x 7.2 x 4.3 cm
Asenbaum Collection
ColApImg_EXHI014746 Josef HOFFMANN (designer)
Austria-Hungary 1870–1956
WÜRBEL & CZOKALLY (CARL WÜRBEL), Vienna (manufacturer)
Austria-Hungary 1892–1913
VINZENZ MAYER’S SÖHNE, Vienna (retailer)
Austria-Hungary 1810–1922
Sports trophy 1902
silver, gilt, malachite
26.0 x 7.1 cm diameter
Private collection
© Josef Hoffmann Estate
ColApImg_EXHI012867 George MINNE
Belgium 1866-1941
Kneeling youth 1898
plaster
79.5 x 19.4 x 44.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Women’s Association to commemorate their 50th Anniversary and the 150th Anniversary of the NGV and with the assistance of the proceeds of the National Gallery of Victoria Annual Dinners, 2011 (2011.10)
Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
ColApImg_EXHI014728 Egon SCHIELE
Self-portrait with peacock waistcoat, standing 1911
gouache, watercolour and crayon
51.5 x 34.5 cm
Private collection
ColApImg_EXHI014224 Oskar KOKOSCHKA
Austria-Hungary/Czechoslovakia/England 1886-1980
Conte Verona (1910)
oil on canvas
70.6 x 58.7 cm
Private collection, New York
Approved: Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
ColApImg_EXHI012902 Otto WAGNER (designer)
Austria 1841–1918
Alexander ALBERT (manufacturer)
Austria active c.1904
Chair for Dr Karl Lueger 1904
Rosewood (Dalbergia sp.), mother-of-pearl, leather
98.5 x 63 x 59.5 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Estate of Karl Lueger, 1910
Enver Hirsch
ColApImg_EXHI014616 Unknown
Gustav Mahler conducts his Symphony No. 1 in D major
Cartoon from Wiener Illustrated Front Page of 25 November 1900
Photo: Imagno
IMAGNO/Austrian Archives
Gustav KLIMT
Austria 1862–1918
Johanna Staude 1917–18
oil on canvas
70.0 x 50.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
Koloman MOSER
Austria 1868–1918
Self-portrait c.1916–17
oil painting on canvas on cardboard
74.0 x 50.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
Oskar KOKOSCHKA
The painter Carl Moll 1861-1945 1913
oil on canvas
128.0 x 95.5 cm
Belvedere, Vienna
Approved: Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
ColApImg_EXHI014409 Koloman MOSER (designer)
Austria 1868-1918
Plate from Flächen Schmuck series, published in Die Quelle 1901
26 x 30
National Gallery of Australia Research Library
ColApImg_EXHI014461 Koloman MOSER (designer)
Austria 1868-1918
Plate from Flächen Schmuck series, published in Die Quelle 1901
26 x 30
National Gallery of Australia Research Library
ColApImg_EXHI013996 Dagobert PECHE (designer)
Austria 1887–1923
WIENER WERKSTÄTTE, Vienna (manufacturer)
Austria 1903–1932
Jewel box (S 4880) 1920
silver-gilt
38.4 x 19.7 x 12.7 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Purchase, Anonymous gift, 1978
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, New York

These manifestations of the human psyche – of yearning, fear, eroticism and death – were equally the subject of art, particularly the works of Gustav Klimt and Egon Shiele. Their depictions of the naked body in drawings and paintings displayed to the public erotic content without the neutralising, mediating effect of allegory.

ColApImg_EXHI012893
Egon Schiele
Austrian 1890-1918
Kneeling female nude, front view 1912
watercolour and pencil
48.3 x 31.5 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Estate of Arthur Roessler, 1961
Photo: Peter Kainz

Though Gustav Klimt knew Freud, his own imagery developed independently. Klimt's erotic drawings were made for private consumption, though he continued to make complex allegorical works depicting the centrality of sexuality for public view. The young Schiele's intensely anxious and narcissistic erotic imagery likewise arose independently – an expression of Zeitgeist, rather than of collaboration.

Timeline

© 2011 National Gallery of Victoria

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