Degree Date

2015

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History of Art

Abstract

With few visual precedents, Egon Schiele (1890-1918) was the first artist to systematically explore double self-portraiture’s potential to convey multiple meanings, by painting, drawing and collaboratively photographing thirteen works in the genre. In this dissertation, I argue that these works reflect Schiele’s interest in establishing a deep engagement with the viewer. I consider Schiele’s double self-portraiture in two distinct categories: as an original, intended group from 1910 and 1911 that, borrowing from two of the works’ titles, I call the Self-Seers, and as a sequence of unique, experimental works after 1913. While the Self-Seers paintings exhibit Schiele’s concern with the act of viewing, his subsequent works suggest double self-portraiture’s potential to be multivalent, engaging with the opposite qualities such as inner and outer, the spiritual and the mundane, and death and life in a highly experimental, yet strategic manner.

To Schiele, the work of art is itself an animate being and art itself is eternal. His views on art’s eternal nature stand in stark contrast to the impermanence of selfhood that scholars agree was his deepest concern, as evinced by his serial self-portraits. While his double self-portraits evoke similar themes found in the Romantic Doppelgänger topos, Schiele’s interpretation of topics such as mirror images, shadows, and death are distinct from it because he does not depict his double as a threat. Instead, the doubles beseech the viewer to be understood differently, for their kinship with the metaphysical to be explored and even embraced. These singular works address Schiele’s creative concerns as well as the preoccupations of Viennese culture, and they display his capacity to create art that is thoughtful and thought provoking, presenting an unexamined facet of Expressionistic art.

Comments

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