Egon Schiele and his nudes


Sitzender-Frauenakt-Mit-Geneigtem-Kopf-Und-Erhobenen-Armen-(Seated-Female-Nude-With-Tilted-Head-And-Raised-Arms)     Male-Nude-in-Profile-Facing-Right        lying-woman-with-red-trousers-and-female-nude-0221        Egon Schiele

J is coming down from Glasgow to visit family and friends. So we’ll be meeting next week at the Courtauld Gallery to catch up and see the ‘groundbreaking exhibition of Egon Schiele’s electrifyingly frank nudes’*. Yep. Electrifyingly nudes.

And there are several reasons why I just cannot miss this exhibition. Nor can I ignore Tatler’s call: “Do not miss this show – it is a once in a lifetime opportunity”. Right. So, reason number two: He’s a fellow Austrian and I like his work. And as for Reason number one … well, have to keep reading. So, next week J and I shall be staring at 30 or so nude drawings, some of which, warns Courtauld, are ‘of an explicit nature’. OK. Cool. No problem. We aren’t prudish. But thanks. Warning taken on board.

However, in the summer sometimes in the mid 90’s we weren’t so cool about it. That is when J and I travelled to Austria together for the first time and when J, a big Egon Schiele (1890-1918) enthusiast, met my parents. Besides meeting my parents the other nudeshighlight of our brief visit was a joint day excursion to the beautiful town Český Krumlov, where Schiele had once lived. There’s a museum dedicated to Schiele, which permanently displays his drawings and water-colour paintings, his death-mask and other bits and pieces. OK. Back to my story. During the drive to Krumau J kept going on and on about how wonderful Schiele’s paintings and drawings were. So. After paying the admission-fee we started going round the museum… exploring the many different rooms. There were many ahs and ohs…and some visitors would appreciatively nod whilst looking at the drawings and watercolours. OK…I admit …I also began nodding (way of imitating the ‘ones-in-the-know’) …but I didn’t really know what the point of all this nodding was…the artwork didn’t speak to them, surely? Or did it and I didn’t yet hear it?…and so we moved from room to room …ahing and ohing and nodding… and then all of a sudden there was silence…complete (!) silence…no more ahing nor ohing nor nodding. It didn’t take us long to realise – in horror – that we had entered ‘the’ room… the room where ALL the drawings were…well: Groundbreaking! Electrifying. And Frank. And many very explicit (see warning above). OK. You might think now nothing wrong with that, girl. Yes you’re right… but…Not. With. Parents. Or. Future. In-Laws-who-you-‘ve-just-met. In. The. Same. Room.

So. Instead of the earth opening at that very moment (does it ever when you need it to?) here’s what followed immediately after:


 J and I looked at each other (J’s eyes panic-stricken, mine anger-stricken) and began lip-reading (real useful in moments like that):

 J’s lips: Oh-my-god-please-tell-me-that-those-pictures-are-an-illusion-I’m-so-embarrassed-how-can-I-ever-look-into-your parents’-eyes-again-and-now-they-might-even-think-that-I’m-a-pervert.

Gerda’s lips: Oh-my-god-why-on-earth-are-you-an-Egon-Schiele-fan?

J’s lips: I-did-not-know-those-drawings-existed**-I-am-so-sorry!

Gerda’s lips: …motionless…cause she was speechless…

And we both moved fast and as graciously as we could towards the door.

So for old time’s sake we shall be going round the exhibition together…this time without my parents… and have a laugh.

Thanks Courtauld for putting on a show of such a fine Austrian Expressionist (my opinion in any case).

*quote taken from Royal Academy

**J knew about the drawing’s existence, and that but did not expect to see them in Krumlov.

Here some Links if you like to explore further.

Avant-Garde Lates: Visit The Courtauld after hours and experience a night of live music, cabaret, and creative workshops. Tickets include the Courtauld Permanent Collection and the exhibition Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude. Entry between 6pm and 8:30pm. Gallery closes at 9pm.  27 November 2014 – SOLD OUT    15 January 2015 – tickets still available!!

Richard Nagy 

Royal Academy



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