Sigmund Freud’s deathbed exhibited in a display of The Uncanny
PUBLISHED: 15:14 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:14 09 January 2020
A century after the father of psychoanalysis published his influential paper, the invalid couch where he spent final days is on show in his former Hampstead home
In a rare public outing, the invalid couch on which Sigmund Freud died is among an exhibition of The Uncanny at the psychoanalyst's former Hampstead home.
The display at the Freud Museum in Maresfield Gardens marks 100 years since he wrote his famous theory which had a huge impact on art, film, literature and of course psychoanalysis.
Freud identified the feeling as related to dread, horror, and repulsion but said it was more than merely being frightened.
He wrote: 'Animism, magic and sorcery, the omnipotence of thoughts, man's attitude to death, involuntary repetition and the castration complex comprise practically all the factors which turn something frightening into something uncanny.'
Identifying the root of the German word 'heimlich' as 'homely' and familiar, he added that 'unheimlich' was when something familiar becomes strange and disturbing.
Inanimate objects coming alive, out of body experiences, occasions when you think of someone and they appear, representations of death such as ghosts, or seeing your double are all situations that provoke the Uncanny which Freud called 'the return of the repressed' because childhood beliefs we have outgrown suddenly seem real.
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The essay was penned in 1919, when many young men, including Freud's sons, returned back to a shattered Austro-Hungarian empire haunted by their war experiences - many having suffered horrific disfigurements.
New artworks by Elizabeth Dearnley, Lili Spain, Martha Todd Karolina Urbaniak and Martin Bladh explore the legacy of Freud's essay.
They are exhibited alongside etchings by German Surrealist Hans Bellmer and the rarely seen couch which was bought by Freud's family in London after their flight from Nazi-occupied Austria in June 1938.
Purchased from J&A Carters in Great Portland St, the upholstered sofa was placed a few feet from the famous pscyhoanalytic couch in his study in August 1939. Suffering from cancer of the jaw, he spent his final days lying on the day bed which was angled to allow himm to see his beloved flowers in the garden.
He died on September 23 aged 83.
Freud's major example of the Uncanny was ET Hoffman's 1817 novel 'The Sandman' in which a young man descends into madness because he believes he is being followed by an evil figure who will gouge out his eyes - a symbol for castration.
The story is explored throughout the exhibition and visitors can download an app free from the website and take an uncanny audio tour culminating in an immersive installation.
The Uncanny runs until February 9 with forthcoming events including a course on The Cinema of David Lynch and a talk on Death Masks.