Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude At Courtauld Gallery

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 42 months ago
Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude At Courtauld Gallery ★★★★☆ 4
Standing Nude with Stockings, 1914. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremburg
Standing Nude with Stockings, 1914. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremburg
Woman with Black Stockings, 1913. Private collection, courtesy of Richard Nagy, London
Woman with Black Stockings, 1913. Private collection, courtesy of Richard Nagy, London
Nude Self-Portrait in Gray with Open Mouth, 1910. The Leopold Museum, Vienna
Nude Self-Portrait in Gray with Open Mouth, 1910. The Leopold Museum, Vienna
Schiele, Egon.
1890ñ1918.

ìZwei Freundinnenî, 1915.

Gouache und Aquarell ¸ber Bleistift auf Papier, 48 ◊ 32,57 cm.
Inv. Nr. 1915ñ933
Two Girls Embracing (Friends), 1915. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Male Lower Torso, 1910. The Leopold Museum, Vienna
Male Lower Torso, 1910. The Leopold Museum, Vienna
Woman in Boots with Raised Skirt 
1918. Private collection c/o Richard Nagy
Woman in Boots with Raised Skirt 1918. Private collection c/o Richard Nagy

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter who, along with his fellow countrymen Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, changed the nature of portraiture and representing the human figure in the early 20th century. Schiele died aged only 28, succumbing to the Spanish flu that only three days before had claimed the life of his pregnant wife — yet even in that short time he created some great works.

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude examines the artists's drawings and watercolours of nudes and how they were strikingly different to anything that had come before them. Nudes are a familiar subject in classical art, yet before Schiele they were almost always shown in a positive light — reclining languidly or striking an athletic pose.

Schiele turned this convention on its head, depicting nudes in contorted positions and women displaying their genitalia confidently, sometimes aggressively. He wasn't afraid to tackle taboos — depicting prostitutes, a pregnant woman, and two girls embracing. Many of Schiele's works raise an eyebrow even today, so you can imagine the controversy they must have sparked in early 20th century Vienna.

It's not just women that Schiele depicted, and several self-portraits are on display here, showing the artist both emaciated and improbably contorted. At times he disposes of any attempt at portraiture and simply paints a nude body — the lower half of a man in blue and purple is quite repulsive to look at. Schiele's unflattering bodies came long before Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud would take up this mantle.

This is one of the best exhibitions we've seen at the Courtauld Gallery.

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude is on at the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House until 18 January. Tickets are £8.50 for adults and includes entrance to the permanent collection.

For more great art in London, see our October listings.

Last Updated 23 October 2014

HHGeek

Hadn't really seen Schiele prior to the NG exhibition last (this?) year of the fin de siecle Austrian portraiture stuff, but fell utterly in love with them. Really pleased to hear that this exhibition delivers on such a level, given that the Courtauld is usually so reliable.

Out of interest, which are the other "best" exhibitions that you've seen there?