The Radical Nude

I found out about this exhibition with only a couple of weeks left, and the only day I could spare to go and see it was the day before it ended. Given that we went on the day before the show finished, and on a Saturday, it was obviously pretty bloody busy. London on a Saturday always is, but this was the first time that Egon Schiele's ground-breaking nudes were brought together, in an intense, sexy and 'extraordinarily arresting' way (my only note about the show in my sketchbook). Let's remember that Schiele's nudes we're often provocatively disturbing, uncomfortable but honest. So, being in a packed room (which, personally I feel was curated poorly - unless the disjointed room was an artistically brilliant accident), rubbing arms with everyone, I suddenly became very much aware that I was staring at a beautifully highlighted lady garden, while standing so close to a group of men that I could hear their breathing. Sure, it was a Saturday evening (we had to wait all day for our scheduled time slot) at the most anticipated exhibition - but looking around, the room was full of men. Art loving men of course, I'm sure, but I actually became really self conscious. Now, I studied Schiele at uni, of course I did, and the surrounding connotations of his ground-breaking work in a non-sexy Vienna of 1910. Some students came to the conclusion that he was a feminist. Some didn't like his 'pornographic studies' edged with sickness and death. Some just liked his mark making. I liked everything it made everyone think about. But this exhibition? I suddenly didn't like everything his work made me think about, purely because I was brushing shoulders with an elderly man that grunted at that particularly flushed foo-foo (don't think of me as naïve, I studied actual pornography for a while at uni, for art of course). I stepped on peoples feet (by accident, I promise) and shuffled round an odd layout after climbing up a bloody tower of stairs to the Courtauld Gallery at Sommerset House. Luckily enough though, Egon Schiele's beautifully radical nudes really did stand out, scream for my attention, and let me briefly forget about my surroundings. I'm so glad I made it in time.

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