Egon Schiele’s work is not for the faint hearted. His edgy work is as far away from Viennese bourgeois society as you can get. Full of colour, life, sex and of course nudes, The Courtauld Gallery has put together one of the most ‘risqué’ exhibitions I’ve seen in a long time – if ever – in London.
Schiele arrived in Vienna at 16 to train as an artist. In 1910 he began to draw nudes in an entirely new way, and this exhibition begins with that seminal year, which includes my favourite portraits, ones he drew of a prostitute.
According Dr. Barnaby Wright, the curator of the exhibition, he did this to show the hypocrisy of Viennese society. While the Austrian-Hungarian empire was at its peak with wealth all around, Schiele took the opportunity to showcase the Viennese underworld, the people who were living in its streets and making money from it.
The next room explores Schiele’s later work, the portraits he made after being sent to prison for his ‘pornographic’ work. This is when he really started to develop as an artist, according to Wright. In these portraits he no longer used younger models and started to deliberately use colour. These works are often about subjects that act out a striking body language, assuming expressive or painfully twisted poses.
Schiele died at 28 of Spanish Flue (influenza) three days after his pregnant wife, and just as he was starting to be recognised as an artist.by