Gesture, the body, and theatricality in the works of Egon Schiele




Roberts, Diana Lyn

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This thesis looks closely at the figurative work of the Austrian Expressionist, Egon Schiele, and his use of dramatic physical gesture in the context of fin-de-siècle Vienna's culturally pervasive and historically vibrant performance culture. Exploring visual and conceptual correlations between Schiele's work and contemporary performance practice, it presents a more culturally contextual than individual psychological reading of Schiele's art and argues that, when viewed in the context of Vienna as a hotspot for the emerging modern dance, cinema, and above all, theater, Schiele's use of dramatically exaggerated gesture was part of a broader aesthetic shift towards a more radical, modern mode of physical expression. Visual analysis across art forms reveals similarities in formal and stylistic approaches to the expressive body. An exploration of the underlying philosophies reveals a shared preoccupation with the body, and an interest in abstract, direct, physical expression over intellectualized verbal or narrative explication. Focusing on such diverse cultural preoccupations as physical pathology, the Viennese language crisis, mysticism, and the myriad manifestations of body culture, this study examines how Schiele and his contemporaries in the performing arts incorporated these ideas formally and conceptually into their artistic practice. Focusing on Vienna's integrated performing and visual arts milieu, this study argues that Schiele constructed a potent, expressive and performative mode of physical gesture and dramatic presentation that suited his personality, the dynamic aesthetic of the time, and the theatrical Viennese sensibility.


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Austrian Expressionism, body culture, dance, Egon Schiele, theater, Vienna 1900



Art and Art History