Agnes Husslein-Arco and Jane Kallir
Prestel, London, Munich, New York, 2011
Reviewed by NINA STEIN
Schiele constantly pushed the boundaries of acceptability with confrontational works, often explicitly erotic and mostly devoid of the traditional props associated with portraiture or the paraphernalia of life, intended to give clues as to the sitter’s personality. By contrast, and using a pared down lexicon of profoundly expressive drawn lines, Schiele’s portraits present an intense insight in to the human condition. The work of Schiele aptly illustrates what in the field of drawing is referred to as “meaningful marks”. It refers to the manner in which drawing (freed from academic convention) is, like music, a most immediate form of human expression. It is appropriate that in the city where Sigmund Freud “invented” psychoanalysis, Schiele should share his incisive ability to see beyond appearances. Transcriptions of his letters are also published, giving a rare insight into his working methods and personality.
Although Schiele famously disliked the traditional syllabus of the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) in Vienna, and embraced the avant-garde and his own ideas rather than follow a more conventional career path as a portrait artist, he nevertheless painted over 100 brilliant portraits before his premature death from influenza aged 28. His life – a rebellious, sometimes chaotic affair that led him from brothels to country escapes to even jail at one point – clearly introduced him to some fascinating characters whose portraits illustrate this new book devoted to such portraiture. Provocative in his art and life Schiele served a prison sentence for having sex with an under-age girl. He employed teenage girls to model for him, which attracted considerable disapproval in the town of Neulengbach, 35 km west of Vienna where he was living with his lover. The judge, in passing a sentence there in 1912 on the charges of “exhibiting erotic drawings in a place accessible to children”, dropped those of seduction and abduction, but actually burned one of the 100 or so “pornographic” works over a candle to illustrate that Schiele’s flouting of convention in this way was unacceptable and illegal.
Schiele was closely in touch with modern developments in psychoanalysis and the deep, conflicted problems in the people he met and drew. His paintings emanate a curiosity and fascination, and this collection shows very clearly his exploration into the human emotions, the complexities and divisions of human personalities, the distance sometimes, and then the closeness, of human relations and possibility of compassion.
His self-portraits, furthermore, evidence a searching desire for understanding, self-analysis, and quite possibly a fair degree of narcissism. Glimpses into the sometimes tortured, occasionally arrogant or maverick images of self are compelling and supremely moving. Schiele brings the viewer close to himself, to his acquaintances, to his loves and the lost, focusing almost entirely on those people, their minds and emotions, notably without any distraction from background or situation. They are writhing emotions, raging people, quintessentially human, in every stroke of pink, amber, ochre and black. His people are silently screaming and singing from the frames of the canvases. Even in reproduction, the images in this book are dramatic. The exhibition beckons.
Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude
Egon Schiele’s controversial drawings, which peel back Vienna’s bourgeois façade to reveal a world of sex and death, go on display at the Courtauld Gallery for the UK’s first ever show dedicated to the Austrian artist’s radical work
Egon Schiele’s iconic drawings are a starting point for this extensive group show at Drawing Room, titled The Nakeds. The exhibition looks at the extent of Schiele’s influence on contemporary artists, while placing a finger on current issues of feminism, exposure and aesthetics in today’s culture
Carsten Höller: LEBEN
Carsten Höller’s show Leben allows visitors to do more than just view the exhibits. From staying overnight in his robotically operated bed to immersing themselves in a flotation tank, the artist invites them to engage all their senses
Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900
Covering the period during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867 to 1918, Facing the Modern charts the portraiture of Vienna at a time of intense change and shifting fortunes for both the new Viennese middle class and the artists who painted them.
The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfigure the Signs of Power 1973
This excellent catalogue, a survey of leading women artists from the late 20th century that examines the crucial feminist contribution to the deconstructivist movement, accompanies the exhibition that started at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York