Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review : Egon Schiele, The Radical Nude at the Courtauld Gallery – 23 Oct 2014 to 18 Jan 2015

Exhibition Review : Egon Schiele, The Radical Nude at the Courtauld Gallery – 23 Oct 2014 to 18 Jan 2015


The Courtauld Gallery is holding the first major museum exhibition in over 20 years of Egon Schiele’s work . A central figure of Viennese art at the start of the 20th century until the end of the First World War. Schiele was influenced by contemporaries Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, but quickly developed his own particular style especially his radical depictions of the human figure. The exhibition concentrates on Schiele’s obsession with the human figure by displaying a number of drawings and watercolours of male and female nudes.


Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude brings together a selection of thirty-eight works drawn from both international museums and private collections, with many works being shown in the United Kingdom for the first time.

Schiele arrived in Vienna in 1906, aged  sixteen, to train as an artist. His precocious talent was recognised by Klimt,  who became something of a mentor to the young artist. Schiele’s early work shows the influence of Klimt and Kokoschka, however in 1910, he began to develop his drawings of the nude in his own particular style.


The first room in the exhibition presents  a series of  nudes from that particular year, these include a number of Schiele’s self-portraits and some portraits of his sister. Perhaps more bizarrely is a number of  works  featuring pregnant women and babies observed in a medical clinic.


The main section  explores his  main output of the next nine years when he challenged artistic conventions about the nude in art.  Schiele does not turn away from the unpleasant side of  human experience, often reflecting the sordid underworld of pre-war Vienna.


Schiele depicting his  models in unfamiliar poses and in many ways subverts the often blatant eroticism of conventional painting. Often short of money, he resorted to  an unusual variety of people for models including himself, his sister, male friends, his lovers and wife, female prostitutes  and a number of young female models.


However Schiele’s bohemian lifestyle and art often affronted many elements of the Viennese public and in 1912 , Schiele was  imprisoned for two months for contravening public decency.  After this incident, Schiele’s  was probably slightly less extreme  and when the First World War began he had to combine his war duties with his art work.


The last part of the exhibition  shows the  works from Schiele’s final years before his early death in 1918 from Spanish influenza, aged just 28.

Walking around the exhibition, Schiele’s work still the power to shock and unsettle, therefore the effect on conservative  Viennese society can only be imagined. However over the last one hundred years, his legacy has grown as other artists have explored similar themes. It is not just artists but modern advertising use aspects of the provocative model to indicate assertion rather than passivity.


This exhibition will appeal to those who are interested  in how a young Austrian artist defied convention with considerable success  until  his untimely death. The themes in the exhibition may often be unsettling but Schiele confronts us  with human bodies literally in the raw, stripped  of classical pretensions.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like more information about the exhibition or to book tickets, visit the Courtauld Gallery website here

A ticket to the Egon Schiele exhibition gives you access to other parts of the Courtauld Gallery.

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