100 years after his death, Egon Schiele’s nude drawings still ruffle feathers.
The Austrian fin-de-siècle artist, who lived in Vienna for most of his life, is being celebrated together with his mentor Gustav Klimt, for his pivotal role in Viennese modernism, with exhibitions and events staged all over the city.
Schiele, who died prematurely at the age of 28 from Spanish flu, was recognized for his talent during his lifetime, yet was also criticized for the explicitly sexual nature of his paintings and drawings. He was imprisoned for exhibiting erotic drawings in a place accessible to children and his controversial work was the talk of the town for intellectuals and artist alike.
Interestingly, in 2018, it’s the turn of advertisement censorship committees to raise their eyebrows to his nudes, as most posters from the Vienna tourism department to advertise ‘100 years of Viennese Modernism’ are being barred from cities like Hamburg, Cologne and London. The suggestion to pixelate the offending bodily regions has been denied, instead, the images are cut off below the torso with a banner stating: “SORRY, 100 years old but still too daring today.”
Schiele’s Expressionist style – contorted bodies, elongations and sexual openness – was novel and daring in his time, yet seems to still be able to show society’s conventions today.
Among the many exhibitions taking place in Vienna, one, at the magnificent Belvedere Museum location is a must see. Showing its permanent collection of Schiele paintings – including the infamous Tod und Mädchen (Death and Maiden) – the focus is on the history of the works’ acquisition, their subject matter, and the people in them. Titled ‘Pathways to a collection’, it offers a real glimpse into how this outstanding collection was built up.
Just the two Belvedere palaces in itself, both Baroque landmarks that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are worth the measly 15-minute drive up from Hotel Altstadt, our private and playful hotel partner in Vienna. Explore Schiele and other Austrian art here, dating from the Middle Ages to the present day, and lose yourself in the Austrian capital’s storied history and art scene.
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