Monday, 1 December 2014

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude, at the Courtauld Gallery

I went to this exhibition because I had been looking at Tracey Emin's loose and expressive drawings and she rated him as her favourite artist. And then I signed up for this drawing course and saw a poster for the exhibition in the same week. I think of the Courtauld Gallery in a certain way which made it seem a bit of a departure to show drawings like this but once I was there it was obviously in keeping, with the traditions of life drawing being taken off somewhere idiosyncratic by a rebellious spirit.

The building is of course very impressive on the Strand, with huge portico and curved elegant staircase and big solid wood doors. Inside the galleries the rooms are relatively small and enclosing. Lots of people, but I was able to see what I wanted. Two rooms seemed to have a lot in them, but somehow hung so that this did not cause problems. Most fairly small drawings on paper. Enough about the artist's life to be interesting but not too much.

Standing male nude
link to image
Art school drop-out and joined Kandinski's Der Blaue Reiter. Died young 28? and didn't draw much during national service in the first world war. Friend of a mime artist (possibly where some of the odd poses come from).

Egon Schiele 1912
Self-portrait with raised bare shoulder
Leopold Museum
Link to image
My notes, go like this:

Egon Schiele
Self-portrait from the back
Link to image

'deliberately awkward & expressive poses'

'Contraversial at the time, and still debated' - (some of my family looked askance when I said I was going to this exhibition, referring to the pornographic nature of some of his work.)

Colours - watercolour/gouache
Yellow ribs, red buttocks, green shadows
On brown paper
'the death beneath the skin'

Nude baby
'wriggling off the paper'
Drawn at the maternity ward
Link to image

Covering/ cropped face so form is detail of body and pose.

Diluted black gouache and pencil gives a ghastly air, vs. image of young girl with pigtails, shows the corruption of prostitution.

Seated nude girl with pigtails 1910
Link to image

'Sneering nude' Hat/skirt and facial expression give her character. Surrounding white chalk odd.

Sneering woman - Gertrude Schiele
Link to image

'I paint the light that emanates from all bodies' Schiele 1911 - in the context of one this means very much more blank than line.

Egon Schiele 1910
Chalk and watercolour
Leopold Museum
Link to image

Nude self-portraits -e xpressive of anguish - grey, thin, emaciated, unnaturally twisted, referring to saints/ martyrs?

Some of these self-portraits suggest that he didn't like himself very much. More about the ugliness, or the posture.

Crouching nude in a green kerchief 1914 Gouache and pencil.
Drawn as if inevitable
Link to image
Unfortunately all the images of this piece that I can find online are cropped in one way or another, which doesn't show the unusual andn striking composition of this image of a woman sandwiched between blue and green. 
Standing nude in red jacket 1913
Focus drawn by red areas
Link to image

'Economy of line & colour' means that impact is focussed.

Nothing in the background. Rules go hang.

What I have learned from seeing this exhibition:
Something about how it doesn't have to look exactly how it looks - it's more important to give the feeling of what it's like to be me looking at it. I think I have been trying too hard to get the details right.

Colour can be important in lots of different ways - focus (right),  composition (crouching nude above) , detail or texture (self-portraits above).

Don't have to have any background!

People have lots of hang-ups attached to seeing naked bodies displayed in particular ways, me included.

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