Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Met Breuer, Egon Schiele and Nude Nymphet Watercolors


We went to The Met Breuer to see three Egon Schiele pieces that are exhibited in the Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection. 

Here's an excerpt from The Met Breuer's Exhibition Overview:


This exhibition at The Met Breuer presents a selection of some fifty works from The Met's Scofield Thayer Collection—a collection that is best known for paintings by artists of the school of Paris, and a brilliant group of erotic and evocative watercolors, drawings, and prints by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Pablo Picasso, whose subjects, except for a handful, are nudes. The exhibition is the first time these works have been shown together, and provides a focused look at this important collection; it also marks the centenary of the deaths of Klimt and Schiele.

Below are the three Schiele pieces with descriptions from the museum:

Seated Nude Girl Clasping Her Left Knee (1918)

"Here, the young daughter of one of Schiele's models shields her nudity with a pulled-up knee, unlike in the lithograph of Girl (1918) [...]"

Girl (1918)

"The girl leans her head pensively on what might be a pillow, and by opening her legs unselfconsciously reveals her pubic area. Seemingly oblivious to the implication and potential reception of the girl's exposure." ["Seemingly" is probably a fitting word, because there's a chance that the girl was not "oblivious".]

Standing Nude Girl, Facing Left (1918)

"Here, the same daughter of one of Schiele's models appears in three-quarter profile."

To put the three pieces into perspective, it may help to read Jeanette Zwingenberger's description of Schiele's Two Girls (Lovers) (1911) in her book Egon Schiele.

Two Girls (Lovers) (1911) 


Coupled with The Met Breuer's admission that the watercolors are "erotic and evocative" and Zwingenberger's admission that Schiele had an "obsession with all aspects of the erotic", it's very safe to say that The Met Breuer has sided with art, in the art versus [child] pornography debate.

Cody Delistraty wrote in his post "Rethinking Schiele" on The Paris Review :


Egon Schiele first began hosting teenage girls at his studio in Neulengbach, Austria, around 1910 [...] girls, often from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, would come spend time there with him and his model-slash-lover Walburga Neuzil, whom he called Wally. Schiele was only twenty at the time. Wally was seventeen. The age of consent in Austria was fourteen (as it is today), and their relationship wasn’t much of a scandal. What was a scandal was Schiele’s painting the children and teenagers who came by his studio and, as would be written in his arrest warrant two years later, his “failing to keep erotic nudes in a sufficiently safe place”—that is, exposing these young people to his supposedly pornographic paintings and drawings.

Tatjana Georgette Anna von Mossig (1912)

In April 1912, Schiele was arrested and accused of “seducing” Tatjana Georgette Anna von Mossig. Mossig, a thirteen-year-old girl from Neulengbach whose father was an esteemed naval officer, had asked Schiele and Neuzil to take her to Vienna to live with her grandmother. Like many young people, she wanted to escape her provincial town. The artist and his lover agreed to take her, but once they got to Vienna, Mossig had a change of heart and wanted to return home. The next day, Schiele and Neuzil dutifully returned her. In the meantime, however, her father had gone to the police and filed charges of kidnapping and statutory rape against Schiele. That the young man was an artist—and one who depicted younger women—helped fuel the father’s suspicions. A third charge was leveled, too: public immorality for exposing young people to his art.

When the police came to arrest Schiele, they took around 125 of his drawings, classifying them as “degenerate”; as a symbolic gesture, a judge burned one of them in court. In total, Schiele would spend only twenty-four days in prison after the first two charges—kidnapping and statutory rape—were dropped, but the charges of degeneracy stuck, as they have stuck to his legacy.

Tatjana in Color (2003)

In 2003, Tatjana in Color, a play written by Julia Jordan, was performed at A Culture Project on Bleecker street here in New York City. Jerry Tallmer wrote in his review of the play, "The Egon Schiele affair from the girl’s point of view" in the The Villager: 

The play sweeps us deliciously into her version (and kid sister Antonia’s woozy version) of events leading up to and beyond Schiele’s arrest in April 1912 for the rape of 12-year-old Tatjana, and the trial-by-magistrate that ended with Schiele serving 21 days in prison for corruption of the morals of a minor.