AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS.- The Van Gogh Museum hosts an exhibition of work by the Viennese Expressionist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) through June 19. Over 100 works, mainly gouaches, watercolours and drawings, will be presented. This is the first retrospective of Schiele's work in the Netherlands. Besides Schiele's expressionist art, the programme also features performances and dance by Marina Abramovic and Dansgroep Krisztina de Châtel. This is the first time that the museum has combined fine art with live performances.
Schiele was originally influenced by the symbolism and sumptuous ornamentation of Gustav Klimt, but this enfant terrible of Vienna's avant-garde soon set out in a different direction. By the time he died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, aged only 28, Schiele had assembled an impressive, though critically maligned oeuvre.
He reached artistic maturity at a remarkably young age. Schiele was barely twenty when he produced his first epoch-making expressionist works in 1910. His emotional development was equally intense and more than any other artist he focused on the psychological problems and sexual obsessions of young adulthood.
His themes of eroticism, sexuality and death - which still have the power to shock today - caused a scandal in early twentieth-century Vienna. In 1912 his pornographic drawings of children landed him a twenty-four-day prison sentence. This dramatic event continued to pursue him for months after his release.
Schiele produced many penetrating portraits. He was less interested in capturing a person's appearance, than in exposing their inner self. While Klimt contrasted realistically portrayed faces and hands with decorative costumes, Schiele juxtaposed the expressionist features of his subject with the empty blackness of their clothing. Various examples of this are shown in the exhibition.
Today Schiele is best known for his female nudes, yet his male portraits and depictions of his own naked body are also impressive. Few artists have examined themselves with such brutal honesty as Egon Schiele. In an astonishing series of self portraits he took on a range of attitudes: from effeminate to elegant, from dandyish to uncertain, and from beautiful to ugly.
His decision to marry in 1915 was an attempt to return to the bosom of bourgeois society. In his subsequent work Schiele abandoned his characteristic grotesqueness. Although he still concentrated on nudes, portraits, landscapes and allegories, Schiele's increasing realism reduced the sense of anxiety that his erotic subjects had once conveyed. The viewer was no longer drawn into a sexual voyage of discovery, remaining instead a voyeur.
A number of works in the exhibition reveal the influence of Vincent van Gogh. Schiele's Room in Neulengbach, for example, is inspired by Van Gogh's The bedroom (1888), a version of which was shown at the Vienna Kunstschau in 1909 where Schiele was able to study it closely. Schiele found Van Gogh's Sunflowers especially fascinating, as an elongated painting and a colour drawing testify.
Egon Schiele is organised in collaboration with the Albertina in Vienna, which possesses the principal collection of the artist's gouaches, watercolours and drawings, and is compiled by the Van Gogh Museum's exhibition curator Edwin Becker.