Klimt & Schiele – Drawing Scandal

How often have you looked at a painting and thought, how did they make this person look so lifelike? They could practically step off the page!

But how often does a simple, rough sketch reflect the same life and movement as a completed work? Or, help you see the nuances of the human psyche, exude a storyline, and 'get' the emotion of the scene?

Am I getting too deep? I just can't explain the expertise of Egon Schiele well enough, but man did he have incredible skills.

I have never felt so emotionally connected to a mere preparatory sketch.

Portrait of a Bearded Man, Egon Schiele, 1907.

You know I love the MFA, and need no extra reason why I should visit on a Saturday afternoon, but when I heard there was a Klimt exhibit I knew I had to go before it closed. Now, I honestly knew nothing more about Gustav Klimt than his famous gold leaf Portrait of Adele Boch-Bauer I from a quick overview in an art history course at university.

So I went, hoping to glean a bit more about the famous artist. At first, I was surprised how much of the exhibit was actually focused on his contemporary, Egon Schiele.

But I learned way more about his life, and the Austrian social climate than I would have ever guessed I would — and didn't even realize I was learning about it until I was explaining my experience in the exhibit to a friend.

Standing Female Nude (Study for the Beethoven Frieze: The Three Gorgons), Gustav Klimt, 1901. 

Enough about my amazing museum visit and love of the MFA curators' experience creation.

Let's chat about pre-Expressionism in 20th century Austria.

Gustav Klimt might be a name you have at least heard of. But his contemporary and eventual friend Egon Schiele became just as noteworthy in the increasingly modern Viennese art society. Klimt was primarily a symbolist artist, painting scenes in a more dream-like style with his subjects often floating in undefined spaces on the page and over time his works became more provocative as he withdrew from public life and 'convention.'

Meanwhile, Schiele was a burgeoning Expressionist painter. Expressionism, originating in early 20th century Germany, is the depiction (expression) of emotion and feeling in a form rather than its physical reality. Two Studies of a Skeleton (Studies for the Transfer Sketch for Medicine), Gustav Klimt, 1900.

Schiele may not have been the mainstream artist the Viennese academy wanted, but his works captured a side of life in a newly contemplative way. Gifted as a young teenager, he flew through his schooling and his training in anatomically correct figures brings life to the nudes he would ultimately be known for.

His nudes would actually be the culprit for a brief prison confinement as Viennese society deemed his work pornographic and overtly sexual, unfit for the public.

Woman Hanging Forward, Egon Schiele, 1914.

"When you suspect within yourself that you can feel and sense life, joy, suffering, and so on, then begin...then there is possibility of 'breathing life into' the work." — Schiele

His sketches, which at times do border on the grotesque, capture vivid emotions.

I can't say this is an exhibit where you'll ooo and aah over the beauty of each work (at least not for their face value), but the beauty in the veracity of how Schiele and Klimt capture their subjects is second to none.

Let me lead you through and encourage you to go see the rest for yourself!

The Pacer, Egon Schiele, 1914.

This was one of my favorites.

I could tell there was something special about the sketch, but couldn't put my finger on it until I read the description.

Schiele stretches the boundaries of the paper with this sketch. The head and shoulder of the woman are pressing up against the edge of the space contained on the page, about to break through into the viewer's reality. And the oddly twisted hand positioning is yet another display of Schiele's skill — simply playing with foreshortening for a future work.

Self-Portrait in Orange Jacket, Egon Schiele, 1913.

Jealousy (Lovers), Egon Schiele, 1911.

Here, the intertwined limbs are difficult to discern as though the individuals are two separate entities melded together into one body.

Standing Woman (Study for Portrait of Eugenia Primavesi), Gustav Klimt, 1912-13.

Lady with Plumed Hat, Gustav Klimt, 1908.

"Painting alone is not enough for me...in late summer, when you see a tree showing signs of the coming fall, you experience it deep in your entire heart and soul; I want to paint this wistfulness."

Even in Schiele's own words you can see how determined and true he was to rendering the full feeling and effects of emotion in his artworks. These sketches definitely require a different way of looking at art, but they inspire you to contemplate inner reflection.

The exhibit is only visible until May 28, 2018!

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