Date of Award

Fall 4-27-2022

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art and Art History

Department Chair or Program Director

McMillan, Jon

First Advisor

DeLancey, Julia

Major or Concentration

Art History


By the early-twentieth century, developments in medicine and psychology tremendously influenced the visual arts. From the medical photography of the Salpêtrière to the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, the cultural attitudes and understandings of illnesses and treatments were available to artists whose work engaged with the medical community during this time. The oeuvre of Viennese Expressionist Egon Schiele demonstrates this influence by utilizing iconography related to disability. In order to construct his identity as an artist, Schiele turns to representations of atypical physiognomy that allow him to assert the identity of a ‘tortured artist’ and establish himself among the Viennese avant-garde. Through his use of atypical physiognomy, Schiele presents himself in an innovative and radical manner that rejects the conventional standards of beauty set forth by the academy. This paper will examine how this radical assertion of the self allows Schiele to adopt the persona of a ‘suffering artist’ and create an identity that both sets him apart from the standard and signals to the Viennese avant-garde that he is one of them. Through his objectification of disability, Schiele is able to self-fashion his artistic identity and signal his knowledge of Vienna as a repository for physical and mental difference that he can utilize for his own artistic gain.