Posted by Rise Art on 14th February 2019
Given that it’s the week of Valentine's Day, what better opportunity is there to discuss the riveting and nonconformist love lives of some of the most influential artists of the 20th century? Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele's desperately passionate, expressionist work pushed the boundaries of art and depicted the human figure in radical ways.
Klimt, born in 1862 was an Austrian symbolist painter and lead member of the Vienna secession movement. The artist also had influence on Viennese expressionism, a movement spearheaded by his biggest devotee Egon Schiele. Schiele, born in 1911 and 49 years Klimt’s junior, was an Austrian figurative and expressionist painter. In 1907, Klimt became Egon’s mentor and they developed a close relationship.
Klimt is unique in that his art is omnipresent yet his personal life is nearly invisible. Much discussion around his life is speculative and drawn from his art and from rumour. What we do know is that he loved women. The artist once said, “I am less interested in myself as a subject for painting than I am in other people, above all women.” And with the exception of his early work, Klimt painted portraits only of women.
It remains a mystery whether or not his models were lovers and whether his companion, Emilie Flöge, a fashion designer that features in much of Klimt’s art, was a lover or a friend. It is thought he fathered 14 illegitimate children and (not surprisingly) had numerous lovers, including musician and femme fatale figure of the 20th Century, Alma Schindler.
Regardless of rumour, Klimt’s art speaks for itself. It expresses an intense and heartfelt connection between the artist and his models. Klimt's most iconic piece, ‘The Kiss’, currently held in the Belvedre in Vienna, manifests this connection and love exquisitely.
It depicts a couple locked in embrace, surrounded by a shower of gold. The male figure (thought to be Klimt) leans over the female figure, holding her face while placing a kiss on her cheek. The female submissively leans back and wraps her arms around him. She faces us with her eyes closed.
A sense of the spiritual is created through the shimmering gold abyss that forms the background. They are removed from the norm of everyday life and situated in the elevated moment of ‘The Kiss’. The divine is implied through the gold cloth placed over their heads, replicating a halo and paying homage to classic religious art.
The geometric patterns within the piece reflect the perfection of the romanticised moment. The gold cloth draped around the figures is adorned with patterns, erect rectangles on the male and soft round circles and flowers the female, alluding to sexuality. Klimt’s sumptuous fresco oozes luxury, love and transcendence.
Schiele differs to Klimt in that his life is as notorious, intriguing and famous as his art. Even from a young age Schiele’s life was controversial, with suggestions that he had an incestuous relationship with his younger sister. In 1912, he was arrested for allegedly seducing a minor. During the court proceedings, it was his art that came under scrutiny. Much of his art depicted young girls in an unapologetically provocative way. It was considered pornographic - and the judge burnt one of his works.
In 1911, Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Walburga (Wally), who lived with him and served as a model for some of his most striking paintings. Wally and Schiele lived together for four years until he ruthlessly discarded her for a financially beneficial marriage. Out of this heartbreak a masterpiece was created. Schiele’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ is currently held in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna.
The piece nods to Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, but the dramatic and tormented scene is in fact it’s antithesis. It depicts a couple cleaving onto one another, surrounded by a devastated wasteland. The male figure is a self portrait depicting death, Schiele’s grey face and black eyes hauntingly look out at us. Schiele, like Klimt loved women, however his primary subject and greatest interest was himself. He was a narcissist and obsessed with his own visceral experience of life.
Wally is depicted as very much alive and her pink dress brings a splash of colour to the piece. It has been suggested the contrast between them represents the collision of pre and post WWI Vienna. Schiele’s genius is his ability to express ugly and personal emotion while reflecting on the universal suffering of war.
Schiele created a lumpy, awkward and fragmented scene and in doing so acted as a catalyst for the modern art movement that rejects the ideal nude. Schiele and Klimt use the human form to express raw emotion, often through physical distortion. Both artists are early exponents of expressionism whose work was highly influenced by their lives and experiences of love.
“How do you paint the female nude without it being sexualised? And how do you paint the figure in a fresh and exciting way?” Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 quarterfinalist Philip Tyler investigates these questions in his current body of work.
The British artist has explored the nude for the last 20 years. His first nudes explored grief and loss, prompted by the loss of his mother. Later, Philip became interested in the sculptural presence of the figure in space. We ask Philip about his life as an artist and his interpretation of the classic nude.
What about life drawing appeals to you and how have you reinterpreted this classic style?
Life drawing is an endlessly fascinating subject. The figure is complex, it moves, it breathes, whether nude or clothed it is never the same and it always provides a new challenge. How I look at the figure and respond to what I see is central to my artistic approach. The history of life drawing is a rich resource and inspires me to push myself and never be content.
You explore many themes in your work, including grief and loss. What do you explore in your life drawing specifically?
Death has featured heavily in my work, as I have lost both my brother and my father in the last six years. I am near the age that my brother died and I am conscious of my own mortality. I carry an emotional weight that impacts my work.
Since the mid 90’s I have explored the nude, and in its first incarnation, my male nudes explored ideas of grief and loss through gesture, lighting, colour and atmosphere. These were all naked self-portraits full of despair after my mum had suddenly died from a heart attack.
My female nudes came much later as I was interested in looking at a different physicality other than my own. I wanted to think about the sculptural presence of the figure in a particular space. Colour became something much more sensuous, more about beauty.
I took some time away from painting the nude but returned to the subject seven years ago. I did a lot of experimentation with oil paint as I never felt that I had fully got to grips with it and considered questions such as how do you paint the female nude without it being sexualized? And how do you paint the figure in a fresh and exciting way? This informed the writing of my first book “Drawing and painting the nude”.
Can you tell us about your process?
I take thousands of photographs on my phone. I store my photographs and they often sit for years as embryonic ideas waiting to hatch. Some might never manifest into work whilst other images might be returned to again and again.
What are the motivations behind the titles of your nudes?
Titles are funny things. I have been a massive fan of Richard Diebenkorn since the mid 80’s and always loved the fact that he would use the same title for a body of works. For a while, my works were called ‘Untitled’ but this made it difficult to catalogue. I then used generic themed titles such as ‘Orpheus’ or ‘Daedalus’. Recently I have been using song titles as well as specific titles which relate to my models.
My studio is quite small so I have to resort to working from photos. I am quite shy and it takes time to get to know a model well enough to ask them to be photographed. This is only something that can come from a position of trust, and the best photo sessions happen when my model comes to the session with ideas in response to my work.
The faces of your figures tend to be blurred. Is there any meaning underlying this?
I am interested in the whole body as a presence in space. These are not portraits and I have always loved how Sickert’s nudes communicate everything you need to know about that experience without resorting to painting intricate features. If I can find a shorthand to express the gesture eloquently I am happy.
What are your ambitions for 2019?
Last year I was a quarter finalist on the Sky Portrait Artist of the year, where I painted Michael Ball. After losing out to the eventual winner on my round I was inspired and painted or drew every sitter that appeared in S4 and S3. These paintings are made purely for my own pleasure. I have just entered the BP portrait award and I am sure that I will be entering the Ruth Borchard self portrait prize, The ING Discerning eye and any other competition that might strike my fancy.
Posted by Aimee Morris on 05th February 2019
As part of LGBT History Month we’re celebrating the achievements of artist couple Gerda Wegener and Lili Elbe, whose story was popularised by Tom Hooper's Oscar-nominated film, The Danish Girl (2015). Gerda and Lili were pioneers of gender performance and together they challenged the boundaries of gender and sexual identity - in art as much as in life.
Lili Elbe, formerly Einar Wegener, met her future wife Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Lili painted Post-Impressionistic landscapes, while Gerda produced paintings and illustrations in the Art Deco style. In 1904, Gerda asked her husband to pose for a painting when one of her female models didn’t show up - and “Lili Elbe” was born. In the early twenties, she would go on to be the first person to undergo experimental gender reassignment surgery.
Gerda’s feminist portraits revolutionised the way women are depicted in art. Art historian Andrea Rygg Karberg describes the artist as “the Lady Gaga of the 1920s.” Throughout art history, portrayals of women had typically been produced by men; they were shaped by the male gaze. “Gerda changed all that,” says Rygg Karberg, “because she painted strong, beautiful women with admiration and identification – as conscious subjects rather than objects.”
Gerda’s use of eroticism was groundbreaking: her evocative portraits of sensuous women openly depicted female sexual pleasure. These risqué paintings and illustrations caused a stir in Denmark, but they were celebrated by the more liberal Parisian society. So Gerda and Lili moved to Paris in 1912 and lived as two women in an artistic community. In 1925, Gerda won two golds and a bronze at the prestigious World’s Fair in Paris.
Tate Modern has opened its first blockbuster show of the year — ‘Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory’ — and it’s a joyful tapestry of colour. Henri Matisse once described his friend, and fellow French painter, as ‘the greatest of us all”. However, he has often been overlooked by art history. Bringing together 100 of his greatest works, Tate’s exhibition positions Bonnard as one of the 20th century’s most important artists.
Tracey Emin’s major upcoming solo show ‘A Fortnight of Tears’ brings together new works that stem from the artist’s personal memories and emotions, ranging from loss, grief, longing and spiritual love.
London Art Fair showcases the best of modern and contemporary artistic talent from around the globe and gives everyone an opportunity to explore, buy and enjoy art. This year’s fair focused strongly on prints, with new work by well-known artists like the Chapman Brothers and David Shrigley. We bring you 3 artists, their printing techniques and how they work.
We interviewed the artist who spends his days transforming music into paint on canvas.
Environmental groups around the globe are encouraging people to set 'green' New Year’s resolutions. The wellbeing of our planet is increasingly urgent, and 2018 saw an explosion of public engagement with sustainability after the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II - a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Blue Planet Effect.
Committing to ‘Dry January’ is all very well and good, but what if we said you could detox with art instead? Scholars have suggested that the act of visiting an art museum or gallery can be a ritualistic experience that can prompt catharsis, and even revelation.
Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson and geologist Minik Rosing have collaborated on an art installation placed in front of Tate Modern consisting of 24 melting blocks of ice called ‘Ice Watch’.