Watch: Klimt & Schiele — Eros and Psyche

Written by Harriet Keown

Imagery Supplied

Get your art documentary (and cinema-induced serotonin) fix this weekend.

Walking down the halls of the Louvre, Met or Tate can seem like a distant reality at the moment so, instead, go see Klimt & Schiele — Eros and Psyche. 

Originally released in 2018, Michele Mally’s documentary on pioneering Viennese artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele is coming to a selection of New Zealand cinemas this weekend, exploring the influence of the pair’s work on art and culture in the turn of the 20th century. Klimt, a trailblazing painter and muralist who was highly regarded among Vienna’s elite, was 30 years Schiele’s senior and acted as both a mentor and friend to the younger, more radical portrait artist. 

The two artists’ works are closely connected to the avant-garde society they played a part in creating, meaning the film isn’t so much about art as it is the Viennese ‘golden age’ as a whole. In a time where Vienna was widely regarded as the world’s artistic and intellectual capital, innovation in the city flourished in many forms. From music’s Arnold Schoenberg to psychology’s Sigmund Freud, Vienna’s artists, writers and thinkers were challenging the way people viewed the world and paving the way for 20th-century modernism. 

This is shown most clearly through the pair’s depiction of eroticism and the female form — Klimt’s with golden façades of intimacy and sensuality (but often with darker underlying themes), Schiele’s being more openly tortured, disturbing and darkly psychological. Both artists’ works were hugely scandalous at the time, with Schiele’s works only being accessible through the pornographic market. Today, some pieces are still considered too graphic for public spaces, with recent advertisements for a Schiele exhibition being partially censored in both Britain and Germany — the concealing banner reading, “Sorry, 100 years old but still too daring today.” 

Visually stunning and impeccably curated, Klimt & Schiele — Eros and Psyche tells the fascinating story of the pair’s shared artistic vision, and how they contributed to ‘art nouveau’ and the drive towards modern thinking. It makes the perfect weekend viewing for any art connoisseur, history enthusiast or cultural savant.

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The Sunflower by Gustav Klimt, 1907. Courtesy of The Belvedere Museum.

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Seated Female Nude by Egon Schiele, 1912. Courtesy of The Albertina Museum.

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