Dreams and Sexuality: A Psychoanalytical Reading of Klimt's Beethoven Frieze


  • Benjamin R. Flythe Boston College




Gustav Klimt, Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Vienna Secession, Fin-de-siècle, Vienna


This essay presents a philosophical and psychoanalytical interpretation of the work of the Viennese Secession artist, Gustav Klimt. The manner of depiction in Klimt’s paintings underwent a radical shift around the turn of the twentieth century, and the author attempts to unveil the internal and external motivations that may have prompted and contributed to this transformation. Drawing from Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy as well as Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, the article links Klimt’s early work with what may be referred to as the Apollonian or consciousness, and his later work with the Dionysian or the subconscious. It is then argued that the Beethoven Frieze of 1902 could be understood as a “self-portrait” of the artist and used to examine the shift in stylistic representation in Klimt’s oeuvre.

Author Biography

Benjamin R. Flythe, Boston College

Benjamin is a fine art photographer and freelance graphic designer living and working in Boston, MA. Having graduated from Boston College in 2016 with a degree in Art History, Ben’s fields of study include fin-de-siècle Europe—particularly Symbolism and Art Nouveau—as well as pop art and the Dutch Baroque. His personal art draws heavily from the theatricality of this last artistic era and his portraits have been compared to those of Rembrandt, especially with respect to the quality of his light and the emotion present in his sitters. While Ben hopes to be able to exhibit work both in Boston and elsewhere, he continues to develop his passion for art as an intern at the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery in Boston’s SoWa district.




How to Cite

Flythe, B. R. (2016). Dreams and Sexuality: A Psychoanalytical Reading of Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze. Elements, 12(2). https://doi.org/10.6017/eurj.v12i2.9377