This course will explore the intersection of medicine, psychology, and art at the turn of the 20th century in Vienna, the epicenter of dramatic changes in brain science and the arts. Modernism – a reaction to Enlightenment rationality and the Industrial Revolution – claimed that humans are innately irrational, driven by unconscious forces and desires. The Modernist movement called for introspection to understand the nature of these unconscious drives, and its influence was aided by advances in knowledge across a range of disciplines.
We will review developments in medicine and psychology and explore how advances in our understanding of the mind and the unconscious affected our understanding of the creation and perception of art. Examining the works of Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele, and other artists of the Vienna Succession, a Modernist/Expressionist art movement founded in 1897, we will consider what they can tell us about the psychology of the artist, the subject, and the viewer.
Recommended (but not required) Reading: The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present by Eric Kandel