Pain in the Works of Egon Schiele and Frida Kahlo
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Humans experience the world through two main vessels: the body and the mind. While these two entities are understood as distinct, their convergence with each other, in the frame of individual experience, renders them in constant communication. In this essay I will analyze the confluence of experiences of pain and self-awareness, where pain and the self are both experienced by the body and mind. I will also address the challenge of representing and expressing these experiences, by discussing their occurrence in modern art through the works of Egon Schiele and Frida Kahlo. Both pain and self-awareness are key themes in the works of Schiele and Kahlo as evidenced by their uncanny and often distorted self-portraits. In Schiele’s and Kahlo’s works, there is something inevitable about encountering the artist’s presence in a way that is both arresting and challenging to the viewer. To understand what is challenging about their work, Elaine Scarry’s 1985 book, The Body in Pain: Making and Unmaking of the World, gives insight into the essential challenge of expressing pain. My aim is to explore the methods through which Schiele and Kahlo respectively deal with experiences of the self and of pain through their pictures, as well as to explore why the self and pain are so intertwined in their work.
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