This is a small exhibition, just 38 works on paper. No surprises, it’s Schiele, the work is explicit and unsparing. Female bodies are often composed to show the vulva highlighted and centre stage. These subjects don’t take prisoners, their look is frequently challenging and distant and where it’s vulnerable the discomfort is considerable.
Perhaps in the early 1900s in Vienna the experience of standing in front of the image of a young child, awkwardly exposing herself to the onlooker, her vulva made visually prominent by a shimmer of texture and colour was more acceptable. It is fascinating to be so aware of our responsibilities, our social and political complications in front of this one uncomfortably haunting small work. In 2015 it has huge and troubling associations whatever the original intention and however brilliantly her pubescent discomfort is described.
‘Standing Nude with Stockings’ is one of the less explicit works in the show. Every part her body is alive and ready to spring off the paper to stalk the gallery unimpressed by its occupants, and this is true of many of Schiele’s drawings and their subjects. There is something more than animal about these people. And there is no respite in his disquieted self-portraits. The subjects and their compositions are charged with a hungry dispassionate energy. And whilst there is a balance and harmony in the construction of the images, the experience of them is more demanding.
The Courtauld Gallery