More than forty-five extraordinary works by Austrian artist Egon Schiele, previously unseen in the UK, will be unveiled at Richard Nagy
s new gallery on Old Bond Street from 07 February 04 March 2011. Much of the four thousand works Schiele produced during his short lifetime can only be seen in Vienna; at the Belvedere, the Albertina and the Leopold Museum
, or New York, primarily at the Neue Galerie
While Schiele is recognised as one of the greatest draftsmen of the 20th Century, with watercolours making over $11 million at auction, his work is absent from museum collections in the United Kingdom and has been given little public attention in the past twenty years. In 1989, the Royal Academy of Arts staged the first and last museum exhibition in the country, Egon Schiele and his Time. Since then Schieles work has only made fleeting appearances in group shows, to which Nagy has loaned pieces. Focusing exclusively on women, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to discover museum-quality drawings and watercolours from the artists most creative Mature Period (1910-1918).
Egon Schiele was born in 1890 in the Austrian town Tulln, just outside of Vienna. After his fathers death in 1905, Schiele began studying painting and drawing at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts & Crafts), where Austrian painter Gustav Klimt was once a student, as well as the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts), both in Vienna. However finding these institutions too conservative, he left in 1907 to seek out Klimt, the leading contemporary artist of the day, becoming the painters protégé and friend. In some instances Schieles unsettling erotic work gained him unwelcome attention.
He was arrested in 1912 and charged with carnal knowledge and distributing immoral material, for which he was cleared, though he served 24 days in prison. That same year Schiele began a very public affair with Klimts model Wally Neuzil, who he later dropped to marry the bourgeois Edith Harms in 1915. Schiele produced little in the two years directly following his marriage as he was called to serve in the army. In 1917 following his participation in the war, Schiele began to exhibit successfully across Europe with shows in Vienna, Zurich, Prague, and Dresden. When Klimt died in 1918, Schiele became Austrias leading artist, though he died of Spanish influenza at the age of 28, only months after Klimt and three days after his young pregnant wife.
Throughout Schieles life, women fascinated him. As the only son in a household of women, his earliest drawings are of his mother and sisters. His closeness to his younger sister Gertrude has raised many metaphorical eyebrows exemplified by naked drawings of her and in some instances rather provocatively so. It is evident in his early nudes of street girls, that he had a young mans curiosity for the erotic. Schiele has an unerring genius for scrutinising the human qualities in the women he draws. This interest in women matured with his years and circumstances, and was with him until his death.
Nagys exhibition shows the diversity in Schieles depiction of women, from the tension and anxiety demonstrated in his 1910-1911 works, to his calmer, softer style of 1917-1918 when he was becoming comfortable and successful as an artist. Schiele, for so long a hidden genius known only to a few, is now one of the acknowledged luminaries of 20th Century art history. Masterpieces on display include Dark Haired Girl (1910), Woman with Infant (1910), Nude in Orange Stockings (1914), and Girl in Underclothes (1917), amongst others.