Gallery visit: Albertina, Wien

14 April 2017. After a long year without major events regarding the viewing of original art we finally made it to Vienna on April 12, on the one hand in order to prepare an exhibition of my own political caricatures in Groß-Enzersdorf near Vienna (Kunst.Lokal, 2017), on the one hand to see the graphical work of one of my all-time favourite artists, Egon Schiele (*1890-1918, Austria) (Albertina, 2017). The commemorative presentation was meticulous, extensive and drained me of all my energy, something I had never experienced before. Seeing his gouaches and pencil drawings I noticed a threefold split in my respective reactions: a magnetic attraction to most of his works, a strong repulsion occurring with some due to the worrying approach to some subjects chosen by him (naked children in highly unchildlike poses) and a weird indifference regarding the commissioned work following his abrupt rise to world fame immediately before his tragic premature death caused by the Spanish Flu.
In this post I want to concentrate on his outstanding loose drawing and painting techniques, though. No matter how closely I look at his drawings, no exaggeration of body features his style is so famous for seems out of place or out of proportion. Schiele like I think no other painter before and to date after him had an innate infallible sixth sense and uncanny ability to feel and depict the human body and its emotional state. Vara (2009) describes that his viewing position from above – which, surprisingly, seems to have been a novelty at the time – and the extreme foreshortening ensuing from that helped him to draw persons in a distorted way while in fact having correct proportions. The very same effect allowed Schiele to address one of his major concerns, the brevity and frailty of human life. As I hop between looking at the above website and continuing to write this post I realise a strange connection my mind has just made between Schiele’s compositions and Ötzi, the famous stone-age mummy found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991. I know Ötzi’s characteristics well from an exhibition I curated many years ago at the science museum I used to work for. The connection is so weird, because the extremely well-preserved mummy in its famous distorted position, facial expression and skin colour could have been painted by Schiele without much adaptation (Gostner, 2011) and also because it could not have been a better example for Schiele’s interest in the frailty of human life:

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Samadelli, M. (n.d.) “Iceman”. Source: EURAC Research, Bolzano.

Particularly impressed I was at a series of drawings, which Schiele made on what looks like baking parchment with a very smooth, glossy surface. On this support he was able to paint with gouache in a way which I had discovered for myself during this course using highly diluted acrylics on an acrylics background (Lacher-Bryk, 2016). Look at the self-portrait below for the technique I described just now and also at its posture – its resemblance to Ötzi is almost unbelievable:

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Egon Schiele (1911): “Self-Portrait”. Source: Egon Schiele (1890-1918) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons
I love the composition, the almost sleepwalking confidence in drawing, mixing and placing colour. In my new course I started a few weeks ago (UPM) I will try and experiment with using what I think were Schiele’s techniques.

Since we had desperately little time at our hands, we had a far too short look at the permanent exhibition “Monet to Picasso” (Albertina, 2017), where I met some of my other favourite painters. I was extremely drawn to the atmosphere in Emil Nolde’s (1867-1956, Duchy of Schleswig) “Moonlit Night” (Nolde, 1914), the humour streaming from Picasso’s work, from drawings to a series of painted plates (Albertina, 2017), and the wonderful choice of colours in “Winter Landscape” painted by Edvard Munch in 1915. It was a good feeling to be able to recognize almost all the painters in the Albertina and I notice an increasingly focused appreciation for their respective merits. Two years ago I would not have thought this possible.

References:

Albertina (2017) Current Exhibitions. Egon Schiele [online]. Albertina, Vienna. Available from: http://www.albertina.at/en/exhibitions/current?ausstellungen_id=1455214727106&j-cc-item=ausstellungen&j-cc-id=1455214727106&j-cc-node=item [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Gostner, P., Pernter, P. Bonatti, G., Graefen, A. and Zink, A.R. (2011) ‘New radiological insights into the life and death of the Tyrolean Iceman’ [abstract] [online]. Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 38, Issue 12, December 2011, pp. 3425–343. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440311002731 [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Kunst.Lokal (2017) Veranstaltungen [online]. Kunst.Lokal, Groß-Enzersdorf. Available from: http://www.kunst-lokal.at/ [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Lacher-Bryk, A. (2016) Part 4, project 5, exercise 1: Working from drawings and photographs – painting from a working drawing [blog] [online]. Andrea’s OCA Painting 1 Blog. Available from: https://andreabrykocapainting1.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/part-4-project-5-exercise-1-working-from-drawings-and-photographs-painting-from-a-working-drawing/ [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Munch, E. (2015) Winter Landscape [oil on canvas] [online]. Albertina, Wien. Available from: http://www.albertina.at/jart/prj3/albertina/images/cache/a5e12d883dae5f3129eae1d3236f27e3/0x6CEAD10536343B3397EC0061E471E393.jpeg [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Nolde, E. (1914) Monnlit Night [oil on canvas] [online]. Albertina, Wien. Available from: http://www.albertina.at/jart/prj3/albertina/images/cache/033d83f67647857cdfda1a6014e5607b/0xA5A2F44F78EDA9251E01FF9439C37A32.jpeg [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Samadelli, M. (n.d.) Iceman [photo] [online]. EURAC Research, Bolzano. Available from: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2013/10/16/living-relatives-of-otzi-the-iceman-mummy-found-in-austria/#.WPCaK46kJR4 [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Schiele, E. (1911) Self-Portrait [watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper] [online]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Available from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Self-Portrait_MET_DP279450.jpg [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Vara, S. (2009) Egon Schiele (1890-1918) [blog] [online]. Duke University, Durham. Available from: http://drawingatduke.blogspot.co.at/2009/12/egon-schiele-1890-1918.html [Accessed 14 April 2017]

 

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