Performative Disability: The Objectification of Atypical Physiognomy in the Self-Portraits of Egon Schiele
Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Art and Art History
Department Chair or Program Director
Major or Concentration
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.
Maldonado, Sophia, "Performative Disability: The Objectification of Atypical Physiognomy in the Self-Portraits of Egon Schiele" (2022). Student Research Submissions. 446.