Oskar Kokoschka

Knight Errant (detail). 1915. Oil on canvas. The Guggenheim Museum, New York.


The Woman Question

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka

March 14, 2017 - June 30, 2017

Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016

Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015

Alternate Histories

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014

Recent Acquisitions

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013

Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013

Art Basel 2013

Galerie St. Etienne, Hall 2.0, Booth D11

June 13, 2013 - June 16, 2013

Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012

The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011

Transforming Reality

Pattern and Design in Modern and Self-Taught Art

January 15, 2008 - March 8, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007

Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 2007

Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007

More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006

* Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 2006

Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005

Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005

65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005

Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2003 - September 12, 2003

In Search of the "Total Artwork"

Viennese Art and Design 1897–1932

April 8, 2003 - June 14, 2003

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002

Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoscha

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

November 23, 2001 - January 5, 2002

The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001

Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001

Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000

From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000

Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000

Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998

Sacred & Profane

Michel Nedjar and Expressionist Primitivism

January 13, 1998 - March 14, 1998

Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997

That Way Madness Lies

Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997

The Viennese Line

Art and Design Circa 1900

November 18, 1996 - January 4, 1997

Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996

The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996

Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995

55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994

Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994

Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993

The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993

Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992

Richard Gerstl/Oskar Kokoschka

March 17, 1992 - May 9, 1992

Viennese Graphic Design

From Secession to Expressionism

November 19, 1991 - January 11, 1992

The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, drawings and prints

January 22, 1991 - March 2, 1991

Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990

The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990

Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989

Fifty Years Galerie St. Etienne: An Overview

February 14, 1989 - April 1, 1989

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988

Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987

Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987

Viennese Design and Wiener Werkstätte

September 23, 1986 - November 8, 1986

Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, Drawings and Prints

May 27, 1986 - September 13, 1986

Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986

The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986

Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985

European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985

Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985

Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna

November 13, 1984 - January 5, 1985

Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983

Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982

The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982

Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981

The Wiener Werkstätte

November 16, 1966

25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964

Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964

Group Show

October 15, 1962

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961

Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960

European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959

* Oskar Kokoschka

October 28, 1958

* Oskar Kokoschka

November 29, 1954

Lovis Corinth, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

May 27, 1953

* Oskar Kokoschka

March 30, 1949

Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

September 15, 1945

* Oskar Kokoschka

Aspects of His Art

March 31, 1943

* Oskar Kokoschka

January 9, 1940

* Oskar Kokoschka

March 1, 1939

Austrian Art

February 1, 1939

Important Paintings

November 29, 1937

Modern Austrian Art

June 13, 1936

Anton Faistauer, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

June 1, 1933

* Oskar Kokoschka

October 22, 1932

* Oskar Kokoschka Part II

October 13, 1924

* Oskar Kokoschka Part I

June 24, 1924


Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997


Beckmann, Max

Fischer, Johann

Gerstl, Richard

Gugging, The Artists of

Hauser, Johann

Heckel, Erich

Kernbeis, Franz

Klee, Paul

Kokoschka, Oskar

Kubin, Alfred

Mueller, Otto

Nolde, Emil

Schiele, Egon

Tschirtner, Oswald

Walla, August



For years, visitors to the Galerie St. Etienne have been baffled by our dual interest in Expressionism and self-taught art, but in fact there are deep historical and aesthetic connections between the two fields. The present exhibition pairs works by selected Expressionist masters with art created in the well-known Haus der Künstler (House of Artists) at the Lower Austrian Psychiatric Hospital in Gugging, outside of Vienna. To some extent conceived as two separate exhibitions, this presentation dovetails with the material that the Galerie St. Etienne will be showing at the annual Outsider Art Fair (from January 24 through 26) and at the Art Dealers’ Association’s Art Show (from February 20 through 24). Our exploration of the interplay between modern art and madness, a phenomenon which today is being more widely recognized and studied, comes as a natural outgrowth of the gallery’s past involvement with self-taught art. Indeed, it is a happy coincidence that the first public exhibition of Gugging artists took place in 1970 at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan, occupant of the Galerie St. Etienne’s original Viennese location.


Interest in the art of the mentally ill has ebbed and flowed over the course of this century, surfacing with particular vigor at certain times and in certain places. However, there has always been a special connection between this subject and Germanic culture. Some observers even accused the German Expressionists of cultivating a faux madness, and in fact these artists openly acknowledged their admiration for the art of the insane. The first books to take psychiatric patients seriously as artists were published in German: Walter Morgenthaler’s study of Adolf Wölfli (1921) and Hans Prinzhorn’s landmark Artistry of the Mentally Ill (1922). Prinzhorn’s collection in Heidelberg and the Wölfli archive at the Bern Kunstmuseum remain two of the largest collections of their kind. These collections and appreciation of the genre as a whole developed in tandem with the science of psychiatry, an effort that was also spearheaded by German-speaking pioneers.


More recently, Art Brut (the conception of the French artist Jean Dubuffet) and its Anglicized variant, “Outsider Art,” have attempted to reposition the work of the mentally ill within the broader context of self-taught art. Seeking an idealized creative purity, many partisans have focused on the artistic achievements of isolated visionaries (who may or may not be institutionalized), while dismissing the therapeutic and diagnostic uses of visual art that occur in many mental hospitals. The artistic colony which the psychiatrist Leo Navratil established in Gugging fits uneasily between these two stereotyped views: this is certainly not traditional art therapy, but neither are these artists self-propelled visionaries in the classic sense.


All too often, the art of the mentally ill has been seen not on its own terms, but as a repository for the fantasies and fancies of mainstream culture. The notion that genius and madness are in some sense kindred states can be traced back to Plato, but its modern incarnation dates to the Romantic era in the early nineteenth century. Whereas there have always been naysayers who saw irrationality as inimical to creative achievement, the Romantic craving for the instinctual perversely privileged insanity. In defiance of what they perceived as the artificial and suffocating constraints of civilization, the Romantics sought a return to an untainted state of nature. Creativity was recast as an individual rather than a social pursuit, and the artist’s goal became the introspective exploration of his or her subjective personal experiences. The separate reality occupied by the insane was suddenly deemed capable of yielding profound insights.


The latter half of the nineteenth century witnessed a new age of reason and an emphasis on scientific and industrial progress that momentarily eclipsed the Romantic agenda. However, in its monolithic advance, civilization was bound to trigger a backlash, and the ground proved particularly fertile in Germany, which had always been a stronghold of Romantic sentiment. Combining their rejection of civilization with a rejection of academic aesthetic tradition, the Expressionists essentially picked up on the Romantics’ ideals and carried them to previously undreamed of stylistic extremes. While the Expressionists’ emphasis on inner emotional experience had Romantic precedents, it was the upending of artistic convention that created not just a spiritual but a perceptual bond between their work and the art of the mentally ill. A summary of the concordances between pathological imagery and modernism overall would include a fascination with geometric patterning, the distortion of realistic subject matter, color and scale, the repetition of single objects or parts of objects, and the juxtaposition of objects that do not ordinarily belong together.


These stylistic parallels, still distressing to some critics of modernism, have been attributed to a pathological malaise within twentieth-century society, and it may well be that artists were unconsciously responding to the collective insanity of our war-torn, holocaust-wracked epoch. It is also evident that artists consciously emulated both the ideal and the reality of the madman. Vincent van Gogh, the iconic mad artist par excellence, served as a key role model for the Expressionist generation, though he himself suffered enormously from his illness and hardly considered it a boon to creativity. Richard Gerstl, hailed as the “Austrian Van Gogh” twenty-odd years after his 1908 suicide, similarly left an oeuvre that was demarcated by alternating bouts of manic exuberance and intense depression. Among the more psychologically stable Expressionists who nonetheless experienced nervous breakdowns that influenced their work were Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Oskar Kokoschka. The depiction of extreme emotional states evocative if not indicative of madness is a hallmark of Expressionist portraiture and, especially, self-portraiture, as exemplified by Egon Schiele.


The special affinity that the Expressionists had to the trappings of madness paved the way for the publication of Morgenthaler’s and Prinzhorn’s books in the 1920s, and also for the acceptance of Gerstl and other emotionally disturbed artists who in their lifetimes had been shunned. To this era, too, date many of the misconceptions and self-serving interpretations that have hampered proper understanding of the art of the mentally ill. Pathological imagery entered the realm of the avant-garde along with other non-academic forms such as tribal art, folk objects, the art of children and that of self-taught but sane painters such as Henri Rousseau. Paul Klee, who was probably the first artist to appreciate seriously the art of the mentally ill and who kept a copy of Prinzhorn’s book in his studio for easy reference, stated bluntly that “only children, madmen and savages” properly recognize “the in-between world” wherein spiritual and existential truth resides. Alfred Kubin, whose earliest work had been shaped by several severe hallucinatory episodes, found in the Prinzhorn collection a hermetic dream world that tied in with Freud’s explorations of the subconscious. This exaltation of the state of insanity, on the one hand, and the conflation of pathological art with a host of unrelated creations, such as tribal art and children’s art, established the dubious parameters within which the genre has since been presented and judged.


The art of the mentally ill shares with other forms of unschooled art only a general lack of contact with mainstream Western culture; that is to say, these forms are linked together as “the other” in patronizing contrast to the mainstream viewpoint, and not by any significant internal kinship. Furthermore, the quest for absolute creative purity sets standards which are unsupported and insupportable by any sort of reality. From the observation that schooling can be (though obviously is not necessarily) detrimental to creative authenticity derives the illusion that all psychotics are potentially great artists and that their work is inherently better, truer than that of trained artists. Obsessiveness regarding outsider “legitimacy” attempts to deny the fact that all visually sensitive persons pick up some influences from their environments, and even institutionalized patients do not live in a cultural vacuum. Sometimes it seems the only good outsider is a dead outsider, since discovery of a living artist inevitably sets up a dialogue between that artist and the broader culture. Lastly, the myth of the isolate artist, working solely to satisfy some inchoate inner necessity, ignores the need for external recognition and, most important, the urge to communicate that is an essential aspect of the creative mission.


In contrast to the foregoing false paradigms, the very real working situation at the Haus der Künstler in Gugging offers a much sounder basis for the study and appreciation of the art of the mentally ill and, by extension, for understanding the fundamental aspects of creativity which that art represents. The Haus der Künstler resulted from Leo Navratil’s decision to impose qualitative judgments on the products of art therapy, a realm that has customarily been considered value-free. By imposing standards--that is, by recognizing that certain patients generated work that was clearly superior--Navratil became not just psychiatrist, but mentor and ultimately dealer to his charges. He found, surprisingly or not, that the patients required structure to create, and that those who painted or drew spontaneously usually produced less interesting material than those who worked in accordance with an externally dictated regimen of regular exercises. Though Navratil never interfered with the actual act of creation, he did set his patients assignments and encouraged them to pursue those directions that he considered aesthetically most rewarding.


The Haus der Künstler, a separate structure erected on the hospital’s grounds in 1981, provides a communal, pseudo-familial residence for a select group of artists, long-term patients who have no realistic prospects of ever functioning within a family or community outside the institution. The exhibition and sale of their work (on which the hospital takes no commission) allows these artists to feel valuable and productive, and creates a substantive bond between them and the outer world. The Gugging artists are, admittedly, an elite, for the vast majority of mental patients do not have their talent. By the same token, however, the success the Gugging group has achieved, both in human and in artistic terms, would not have been possible if they had been treated as ordinary mental patients and their art valued merely as a diagnostic aid or therapeutic “busy work.” One of the most important lessons of Gugging is that, even within the mental institution, quality counts.


Above all, it is Navratil’s recognition of art’s social function that accounts for the triumph of the Gugging colony and yet, paradoxically, flies most blatantly in the face of the romantic shibboleths that have dominated the outsider field. Some artists do create purely out of inner necessity--in defiance of society’s neglect or even overt derision--and if their work is good, perhaps they will one day be recognized and appreciated. But the fact that an artist creates alone and out of some inner compulsion does not automatically make him or her good. An equally important goad to creativity is the encouragement of society: the child whose work is praised will more likely go on to become an artist, and the adult who sees that his or her efforts are appreciated will usually become more prolific and possibly, in the process, more adept. Ultimately, even the most extreme outsider must connect with tradition if his or her work is to be survive: even if approbation is imposed from above and without the artist’s conscious collusion, the work will not be acknowledged unless something about it reverberates within the culture at large. It is not, therefore, so much in its difference from “normal” art that the importance of the art of the insane lies, but in its similarities: in the things it can teach us about what it means to create and, ultimately, what it means to be human.