21 Sep 2010

Egon Schiele's troublesome paintings at 'Treasures of Budapest' Royal Academy, London

 Egon Schiele, 'Two Women Embracing', 1915, Pencil, watercolour, gouache. 48.5 x 32.7 cm. 
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

In his article on Schiele's paintings of nudes at the Royal Academy exhibition 'Treasures from Budapest'; Jonathan Jones explores some interesting ideas regarding modern art and sexuality. Click here.

'His work has a specific presence, aggressive, unignorable, practical. They are pornographic. They insist that the erotic is as great and heroic a subject as wars or religion. And they question whether art has to confine itself to representing life second-hand. That's what is extraordinary about Schiele's art: it does not comment on life, it takes part in life. It is not like pornography. It is pornography. It is also high and serious art, a doubleness that may only have been possible in Vienna on the eve of the first world war.' 

Schiele's window on his erotic private desires was short lived. By 1907, while Schiele was still a student, Pablo Picasso, around 19 years of age in Paris, painted 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon', a full-frontal, jagged, spatially modern painting, exploring his own desires and also using prostitutes as modeIs. Within a few years abstraction was to establish itself as one of the major discoveries of the Twentieth Century. Marcel Duchamp's readymades, Kasimir Malevich's 'Black Square', the Dadaists and their use of politics and collage were to change how we use and think of the figure. In this context Schiele's paintings of sexuality look almost innocent.

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