Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude

23 October 2014 – 18 January 2015

The Courtauld Gallery is presenting the first major museum exhibition in over 20 years of one of the 20th Century’s most exceptional artists, Egon Schiele (1890- 1918). A central figure of Viennese art in the turbulent years around the First World War, Schiele rose to prominence alongside his avant-garde contemporaries, such as Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka. He produced some of the most radical depictions of the human figure created in modern times, reinventing the subject for the 20th Century. The exhibition charts Schiele’s short but transformative career through one of his most important subjects – his extraordinary drawings and watercolours of male and female nudes.

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude concentrates on the artist’s drawings and watercolours. It brings together an outstanding selection of works that highlight Schiele’s technical virtuosity, highly original vision and uncompromising depiction of the naked figure. This sharply focused exhibition is a unique opportunity to see thirty-eight of these radical works drawn from both international museums and private collections, with many works shown in the United Kingdom for the first time.

Schiele arrived in Vienna in 1906, aged just sixteen, to train as an artist. He quickly proved his precocious talent and the following year sought out Klimt, the leader of Vienna’s Secessionist group of avant-garde artists and designers, who became a mentor to the young artist. Schiele’s early work could not have prepared the art establishment for the extraordinary breakthrough that he made in 1910 when he began to draw the figure in an entirely new way and the subject of the nude took on an increasingly important role.

This exhibition will begin with a rich selection of nudes from this seminal year, including a number of Schiele’s powerful nude self-portraits, demonstrating how his approach was closely tied to his introspective examination of his physical and psychological make-up. The main section will explore his provocative nudes of the next nine years when he pushed artistic conventions through his direct expression of human experience, fears and desires. The works are bound up with themes of self-expression, procreation, sexuality and eroticism. These were fertile concerns in the socially and psychologically charged atmosphere of pre-war Vienna.

Schiele overturned and transformed old traditions of art school life drawing classes with his raw and unidealised approach to the nude. Rather than just depict conventional artists’ models in familiar poses, he took as his subjects an unusual variety of people including himself, his sister, male friends, his lovers and wife, female prostitutes, pregnant women and babies observed in a medical clinic, and a number of young female models. Schiele’s subjects often act out a striking body language, assuming expressive or painfully twisted poses, his models frequently explicit in their nudity. Many of these works affronted contemporary Austrian standards of morality and were considered pornographic by some. In 1912 Schiele was even imprisoned for two months for contravening public decency. Today, these works are celebrated for challenging outmoded conventions of the nude in high art of the period and for investing the genre with a new and distinctly modern relevance.

The last part of the exhibition looks at works from Schiele’s final years before his untimely death in 1918 from Spanish influenza, aged just 28. An important aspect of all these works is Schiele’s unique draughtsmanship, which the exhibition explores through the development of his technique and approach to the medium that he made so distinctively his own. 

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude is an opportunity to reflect upon Schiele’s wide-ranging influence on the course of modern art that still resonates today.

Dr. Ernst Vegelin, Head of The Courtauld Gallery comments:
‘Egon Schiele’s works illuminate a radical approach to a traditional subject. His unflinching portrayal of the human figure distinguish these works as among his most significant contributions to the development of modern art.’
Dr. Barnaby Wright, Daniel Katz Curator of 20th Century Art at The Courtauld Gallery adds:
‘As the first museum exhibition of the artist in the UK for over twenty years, this is an unique opportunity to bring together a remarkable group of Schiele’s nudes for public display. The psychological charge of his work is palpable in the distinctive line of Schiele’s nudes, the influence of which reverberates in the work of important contemporary artists today.’
Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board, comments:
‘Egon Schiele was a pivotal figure in the creative and intellectual crucible that was pre- war Vienna, changing and challenging perceptions of the role of the human figure within modern art. As an Austrian company, we are proud to sponsor this important exhibition as part of our ongoing programme of cultural support and help reawaken interest in a poignant body of work whose influence still resonates today.’
Marshall Parke, Managing Partner of Lexington’s international business said:
‘We are delighted to be sponsoring this important new exhibition of one of the 20th Century’s most radical and influential artists. The Courtauld Gallery is one of London’s premier art museums, with an outstanding collection of important works, and Lexington Partners are proud to be affiliated with such a prestigious and exciting institution, in what is a once in a generation opportunity to see so many of Egon Schiele’s artworks under one roof in the United Kingdom.’

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and will include new research by leading scholars including Professor Peter Vergo and Dr Gemma Blackshaw. 

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Standing Nude with Stockings, 1914
Black chalk and gouache
48.5 x 32.1 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremburg

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Woman with Black Stockings, 1913
Gouache, watercolour and pencil, 48.3 x 31.8 cm Private collection, courtesy of Richard Nagy, London

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Erwin Dominik Osen, Nude with Crossed Arms, 1910 Black chalk, watercolour and gouache
44.7 x 31.5 cm
The Leopold Museum, Vienna

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Crouching Woman with Green Kerchief, 1914 Pencil and gouache
47 x 31 cm
The Leopold Museum, Vienna

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Nude Self-Portrait in Gray with Open Mouth, 1910 Black chalk and gouache, 44.8 x 32.1 cm
The Leopold Museum, Vienna

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Male Lower Torso, 1910
Black chalk and gouache, 44.8 x 28.1 cm The Leopold Museum, Vienna

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Two Girls Embracing (Friends), 1915 Gouache, watercolour and pencil
48 x 32.7 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands (Self-Portrait), 1910
Black chalk and gouache on paper
63 x 45 cm
The Leopold Museum, Vienna 

 Woman in Boots with Raised Skirt 
Black crayon
43.5 x 28 cm
Private collection c/o Richard Nagy

 Egon Schiele
Squatting Female Nude, 1910
 Black chalk, gouache and opaque white
44.7 x 31 cm
The Leopold Museum, Vienna

 Egon Schiele
Seated Female Nude with Raised Arm (Gertrude Schiele), 1910
Gouache, watercolour and black crayon,
45 x 31.5 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna

 Before the Mirror
Pencil and Gouache
48.3 x 32.1 cm
The Leopold Museum, Vienna

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