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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Egon Schiele

Haunting, fragile, uncomfortable, defiant. Schiele’s nudes each have their own character and mood. He does like a good vagina or two, so it’s not for the faint hearted. Kate and I went to have a look at the weekend at the Radical Nude collection at The Courtauld Gallery. (No cameras allowed unfortunately so you’ll have to make do with pictures from the internet).

His subjects namely being sex and the body, his work is extremely varied. Some seem feeble and gentle with pale and washed out colours, the tentative almost apologetic lines, even the submissive poses of his subjects. Crouched, hunched, hidden beneath cloth, they seem to be receding from the page. Others are seductive, pornographic, aggressive even. Pushed out chests, spread legs, prominent genitals all make them difficult to take in – it seems Schiele was a randy young man a bit obsessed with lady bits (there are a lot of muffs), but he was also rule changing in how the human form is presented. Schiele’s work pushes us to feel rather than just observe.
This first image is of his sister. She’s strong, lean, thoughtful and composed. She’s comfortable in her skin and not at all sexual in my mind, despite having lost her top. 

In contrast, he paints the second woman as vulnerable and girlish, with no hair on her vagina she seems young, but sexual with her long post coital hair flowing down her back. 

The third is provocative. Her tilted head is suggestive and her red hair and fiery nipples make her confident and forward. I can feel his lust for her, despite her being quite ugly. Her vacant expression suggests she’s done it all before and to Schiele perhaps just a body from which to get his kicks. 

This piece is perhaps the most intense for me in terms of emotion. Her aggressive and defensive body language keeps us out and contempt oozes out of every pore. Whether she actually looked like this, or if Schiele was painting his perception of her is another matter. I can’t imagine why she’d sit for him if she hated it that much… 

The last is like a little doll. She’s a sad, a child-like figure with a weak, watery disposition (oddly except for her lips and nipples). Maybe she was dying of the influenza that killed him, or maybe he just saw her that way. In any case, she’s no curvaceous goddess reclining on a chaise longue. 

We only stayed for half an hour or so, the bulbous labia and sexually charged poses were too much for us. Pop along yourself to the The Courtauld gallery next to Somerset House. The exhibition is showing until the 18th of January next year.

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