Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Egon Schiele The Radical Nude

Managed to catch this absolutely wonderful display of a selection of Schiele's masterful figurative drawings before it closes at the end of this week. 

The show comprises his drawings from 1910 to 1918 - the last year of his life. They are beautiful, almost other worldly, in that the figures are intentionally elongated, emaciated and a statement of intent of Schiele's radical ideas in moving away from the work of the other artists of the Vienna Succession and forging his own style.

I thought the textures and the mark-making in the drawings were beautiful and served to highlight the other-worldly appearance of the figures. I also liked the restricted palette of green and red gouache paint to highlight the features of the figures such as the elbows, buttocks, facial features etc. which also served to emphasise the thinness and alien-like qualities of his models. 

Some of the drawings are uncompromisingly explicit and depict his perverse take on the figure, and attempts to advance figurative art of the time. Unfortunately Austrian society of the time were not prepared to go along with Schiele's vision and he was jailed for a time as his work was deemed pornographic. In this respect I certainly found the drawing below of his wife pretty explicit and uncompromising. It brought to mind the similarly explicit Jeff Koons' pictures with his then wife La Cicciolina. Though it is a shocking image I find it to be beautiful at the same time because of the way in which it executed, and certainly no more explicit than what can be found on the internet in this day and age.

Schiele's drawings also reminded me of much of recent fashion illustration and the recent controversies about the use of both pre-pubescent and bulimic models in the fashion industry. I was really inspired by this show, Schiele's draughtsmanship is fantastic, and I feel the need to look at and reassess my own drawings through fresh eyes. Be quick if you want to catch this show as it closes next Sunday.

Egon Schiele The Radical Nude
until 18th January
The Courtauld Gallery
Somerset House

Also on show at Somerset House are some great photographs of the ever gorgeous Debbie Harry aka Blondie, taken by her long term partner and band-mate Chris Stein. These are a great evocation of the late 1970s early '80s period in music and fashion and remind me of seeing Blondie on Top of the Pops for the first time back in the day as a group fronted by the drop-dead gorgeous Ms Harry. This show has it all, the hair, the dresses and those cheekbones. 

Chris Stein/Negative:
Me, Blondie, And The Advent Of Punk 
until 25th January
East Wing Galleries
Somerset House