Pelvic Gazing at the Frauenklinik: Schiele’s Clinical Modernism by Gemma Blackshaw

By on January 18, 2019

From the forthcoming monograph Clinical Modernism: Art, Medicine, and Experience in Vienna 1900 by Professor Gemma Blackshaw.

In 1910 Egon Schiele (1890-1918) completed a series of life-studies of heavily pregnant women and new-born babies at the Second Women’s Clinic within the University of Vienna’s General Hospital, one of two public clinics and teaching institutions for gynaecology and obstetrics which had opened to international acclaim just two years previously.
Combining visual analysis with an investigation of the Clinic’s ‘progressive’ facilities, practices and pedagogies, the presentation will reflect upon the entanglement of the artistic and medical gaze in the modern period, and its occlusion in modernist art history.

How does a retrieval of the clinical context for Schiele’s work enable us to engage with the social and sexual politics of medical specialisation and modernist representation? And how do these politics problematise the historicising of this and other modern artists’ images of the naked female body as the pursuit of fundamental human truths?

Gemma Blackshaw, Professor of Art History at the University of Plymouth, has an international reputation for research on art in ‘Vienna 1900’. She curated the major exhibition Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900 for the National Gallery London in 2013, which was described by critics as ‘original, inquisitive and courageous’, ‘complicated, probing and philosophically fascinating’. She co-curated Madness and Modernity: Mental Illness and the Visual Arts in Vienna 1900 at the Wellcome Collection, London, in 2009, which, as a result of its critical reception, was restaged in an expanded form at the Wien Museum, Vienna, in 2010. She has published widely on modernist Viennese portraiture and figuration, with a particular focus on its intersections with modern medicine’s visual, institutional and therapeutic regimes. Her revisionist work on Egon Schiele (1890-1918) has been characterised as ‘densely documented, rigorously argued and delightfully astute’.

Pelvic Gazing at the Frauenklinik: Schiele’s Clinical Modernism with Gemma Blackshaw is held at Freud Museum Wednesday 23rd January 2019.

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