Author: Edith Wolf Perez

Translation: Katherine Dedich

Currently showing is the new “The Electric Body” exhibition at the Leopold Museum. Throughout this exhibition the relationship between medicine and art is explored using works by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) and Erwin Dominik Osen (1891-1970). Works by the artists of Gugging are in the exhibition “gugging.! classic & contemporary” spanning over  five decades. 

The Electric Body

Leopold Museum’s exhibition “Vienna 1900” is currently showing the focus exhibition, “The Electric Body.” “The Electric Body”exhibition offers a glimpse into the relationships between artists and medical specialists at the time, both as collectors and as clients. 

The exhibition focuses on Erwin Dominik Osen’s drawings of patients. These drawings were recently discovered in the estate of the electro pathologist and head of the neurological department at Garrison Hospital II, Stefan Jellinek (1871-1969). Osen’s drawings have recently been acquired by the Leopold Museum. 

The treatment of “war neuroses” now diagnosed as trauma related disorders, such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, were often treated with electrotherapy or commonly known as electric shock therapy during the First World War. Osen himself suffered from neurasthenia, which reportedly intensified during basic military service, bringing him to Garrison Hospital II for treatment in 1915. There he drew portraits of patients who were exposed to electrotherapy treatment. These pictures of the male patients express vulnerability and insecurity, as Osen removes his “models” from the hospital environment concentrating entirely on their naked bodies, on their deformed skulls, their distorted muscles, and on their apathetic or disturbed looks. Only the “Lustknabe”, a representation that addresses the connection between diagnosed “nerve weakness” and homosexuality, is framed in color.

Erwin Dominik Osen, Selbstporträt, 1915 © Helen Emily Davy, Wien, Foto: Leopold Museum, Wien/Manfred

Whether Osen’s pictures in the Garrison Hospital II were commissioned work or part of his own rehabilitation program can no longer be determined. His portraits of patients in the psychiatric clinic Am Steinhof, made in 1913, are, however, a commissioned work with which the doctor Adolf Kronfeld illustrated a lecture, because he found that the drawings are a more faithful representation of his patients than a photograph.

In “The Electric Body” Osen’s works are juxtaposed with Egon Schiele’s pictures of pregnant women and newborns at the maternity ward of the Second Women’s Clinic. The friendship between the two artists is also explored, for example both of them have captured the dancer Mao Mandu on the canvas.

“The Electric Body” is also available as a digital exhibition. (until September 26th)

“gugging.! classic & contemporary”

The works of the artists from Gugging have long since outgrown the clinical context and are recognized as Art Brut on the art market. “Gugging. classic & contemporary ”was opened online on May 6th: “With this new exhibition, it was important for us to show what was going on in the Haus der Künstler and in the atelier gugging,” said Johann Feilacher, artistic director of the museum gugging. Now it can be experienced live until 2024 (hopefully continuously). The incredible variety of works makes this show so particularly exciting. Be it the colossal images of women by Johann Hauser (1926–1996), the giant cows by Franz Kamlander (1920–1999) or the androgynous images of people by Karoline Rosskopf (1911 – unknown), which she and her colleague Oswald Tschirtner, Philipp Schöpke or August Walla represent the creative range of this extraordinary artist collective. The “classics” are juxtaposed with works by contemporaries such as Arnold Schmidt (1959) and Leopold Strobl (1960). His work has already met with international acclaim, for example at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which has already acquired works from him.

Ausstellung gugging Copyright. Foto © Felix Büchele
Ausstellung gugging Copyright. Foto © Felix Büchele