04/14/2024, 12:51, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)

Sigmund Freud´s return to Vienna

Author: Sabrina Zehetner (TVP)


On June 4, a sculpture of Sigmund Freud created by Oscar Nemon was unveiled on the campus of the Medical University of Vienna. Prior to the unveiling, we talked to Sigmund Freud’s great-grandson Lord David Freud and Lady Aurelia Young, the sculptor’s daughter.

Interview with Lord David Freud:

What is your relationship with Vienna?

Lord David Freud: It´s a very complicated relationship because my father (Anton Walter Freud) and the rest of the family was thrown out of Vienna, and it was the fundamental cause of an underlying insecurity for him. It was very character-forming in a not very positive way. My father was very insecure wherever he lived. He never felt quite at home, that he belonged in the UK. He never really forgave the Austrians for throwing him out. He very rarely went back. Of course, all those feelings I got as a young child, although it´s remote for me. I was brought up as an English boy, didn’t learn German. My father didn´t want to stay with the old culture. I know quite a lot about Vienna’s history and its stories. My father lived on Franz-Josefs-Kai and he would come around to see Sigmund, and my grandfather would see him nearly every day. It was a very, very close relationship, so I have a mind map of Vienna from all those stories.

How did Sigmund Freud influence your life?

Lord David Freud: If you have got someone like that as a relation you either become a devotee and bury yourself or you do something entirely different. I think there is no other option. I did something entirely different. I´ve had now several careers. I’ve been a journalist, a banker, a politician and I´ve worked in charity in the Middle East for The Portland Trust. I’ve done a lot of different things but nothing to do with psychoanalysis. When I was a child I did read his work, which was very readable. I think one of the reasons he´s so famous is that he’s such a good writer. I was very much aware of psychology and psychoanalysis, almost as part of my upbringing, without thinking about it. I think there have been two big occasions where I found it really useful to have that mind set about how people think. What is their psychology? What should you appeal to?

What occasions?

Lord David Freud: I think the first thing was my first big transaction, where I had to float the Eurotunnel. I had to issue the shares and my job was to persuade the market that this was worth buying. I was thinking about market psychology, which then was very disliked and hated in investment. The second one is much more important. For the last ten years I´ve been the minister for welfare reform in the UK. My job was to build a new welfare system, which of course is one of the most ridiculous things to do - like walking into Zeltweg. My job was to do the design. The driving force for that was the sense of how you establish people´s sense of self-worth. I tried to allow people to get their independence back.

Is there a correlation between politics and psychoanalysis?

Lord David Freud: Politicians are a very small sub-class who are driven, I think, by things that normal people are not driven by. The most important lesson I learned was that you could get done anything you wanted to if you didn’t need the credit for yourself. The psychology of working politicians is to give them the credit because achievement is what they´re looking for the whole time. 

How important is psychoanalysis in the UK today?

Lord David Freud: I don’t think the British are that serious about psychoanalysis. In the UK people don’t register the name very much. Most people can’t spell my name because it’s a German vowel. And the British don’t get excited about anything. If I go to America, they go completely hysterical over it. It’s quite nice that you don’t have the problem in the UK, but I don’t think they are desperately interested. I don’t think Freudian psychoanalysis is a very big market.

Perhaps it’s a cultural thing?

Lord David Freud: There may have been an element of stiff upper lip in the key period when it might have taken off – in the 40s, 50s, 60s. There is so much competition now and I´m not quite sure what it means to be a pure Freudian psychoanalyst anyway. But I don’t know how many people actually go and have themselves analyzed in Vienna either.

Is psychoanalysis still relevant today?

Lord David Freud: I think neuroscience will eventually take over and we will know much more about how the brain is functioning, and that was foretold my Sigmund Freud himself. I think the reason he is an important figure today, which I think he is, is that he had a total cultural impact around the world, which was transformative. People nitpick away at theories but that’s not actually the point. The point is the cultural impact of opening things up, which were never discussed.


Interview with Lady Aurelia Young

What does the unveiling of the statue mean to you?

Lady Aurelia Young: This is very exciting for me because in 1936 my father Oscar Nemon, came back to Vienna to meet Sigmund Freud again. He sculpted Freud in 1931 and made a bust of him, which Freud kept. In 1936, he came back to Vienna to make a statue of Freud and he stayed at the Hotel de France where he wrote his girlfriend: “I am sculpting Freud. He’s such a great man. I’m so excited to be here!”

But the statue never got to be put in Vienna as it was meant to be. A smaller version went to New York.

What happened then?

Lady Aurelia Young: In 1969, Winnicott decided that the statue should be in London, so the money was raised. It was cast in Bronze and placed in London. Then, about two years ago the biographer of Winnicott, Helen Taylor Robinson, got in touch with me to ask about this statue in London. I told her about it and said:” What I really want is the statue to be in Vienna, where it was meant to be!”

Helen Taylor Robinson got in touch with Dr. Stephan Doering who said: “Let’s have it on the campus of the Medical University of Vienna. This is where Sigmund Freud studied.”  

A new statue was cast and I’m hoping that all the students will talk to him and touch him and ask him questions and tell him their problems.

What was his impression of Freud?

Lady Aurelia Young: He thought he was a very great man! He said that his statue deserved to be cast in gold.

He always looks very serious.

Yes, his housekeeper when she looked at the bust said, “He looks angry”, to which Freud replied, “I am angry. I am angry with humanity.”

How important, in your opinion, is Freud in the UK today?

Lady Aurelia Young: He is still very well-regarded. Things have moved on a bit but he is still referred back to.

Did it influence your life?

Lady Aurelia Young: It influenced my father’s life, and I suppose incidentally mine as well. I haven’t been psychoanalyzed but I realized that Freud had a lot of insights that were needed in his time that reverberate still. My father´s deepest wish was the statue to be in Vienna, but Vienna wasn’t very receptive until now. It’s great that the statue is being unveiled on the day he left Vienna on June 4, 80 years ago. He is coming home to his university.

Sigmund Freud Museum SFU Belvedere 21er haus stuhleck kunsthalle
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