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On June 4, 1938, having paid the “German Reich Escape Tax” and the “Jew Property Tax,” Sigmund Freud left his apartment at 19 Berggasse forever. A few days before his emigration from Vienna to London, photographer Edmund Engelmann courageously and secretively recorded Freud’s legendary residence, documenting it in photographs that were eventually published. An old volume of these photographs was presented to artist Robert Longo in 1993, acting as the catalyst and primary source material for the 30 large-size charcoal works that constitute The Freud Drawings.
“The book, with its extraordinary photographs, sat around my studio and eventually insinuated itself into my consciousness, pushing me to take action.” — Robert Longo
In Longo’s version of Freud’s house, light barely penetrates darkness, even through generous windows. The prints are a visual cliche of psychoanalysis as the illumination of the soul’s darkness. In Longo’s version of Freud’s house, the place is deserted, as if its occupants left in haste. In this way, the artist draws attention to the absurdity of the historical events by emphasizing that Freud was working on his psychoanalysis during the time when Nazis were in Vienna and he had to leave in hast.