A small but animated crowd gathered yesterday in front of ‘Black-haired nude girl’ — an arresting drawing of a young girl dressed in nothing but a pair of black stockings.
Her black hair is tousled, her skin has a greyish hue, her eyes are sexually insolent and her erogenous zones — all of them — have been carefully picked out in salmon pink paint. She looks alarmingly young.
Nearby are drawings of other women pleasuring themselves — luxuriating, eyes closed, heads thrown back, legs pulled apart in abandonment. Two naked girls with pink bottoms lie — float, almost — on what could be a bed. Another two women are enjoying each other in close proximity nearby.
Everyone in the group at the exhibition stares hard, murmuring in excitement until one smartly dressed woman draws so close her half moon specs are almost touching the very rude pencil strokes. She marvels at the ‘sensual fluidity’ and the masterful lines with a rapturous sigh.
The kiss is Klimt's most famous painting and has become one of the most popular poster images of all time
Visitors view works by Egon Schiele, on display together with drawings by fellow Austrian artist Gustav Klimt to mark the centenary of their deaths at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on Wednesday
Yet these pictures are not pornography but just some of the prime works in the Royal Academy’s latest blockbuster exhibition, Klimt/Schiele: Drawings From The Albertina Museum, Vienna, which will open to the public on November 4.
Gustav Klimt achieved limited fame during his lifetime
They were produced by two artistic geniuses. One was Gustav Klimt, born in 1862, whose painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I sold for a record £100 million in 2006 and whose sensuous The Kiss adorns countless student bedrooms as a poster. The other was his scandalous protege Egon Schiele, born in 1890.
The critics have gone wild about the exhibition. ‘Sexy, cringe-making and unmissable,’ said the Daily Telegraph. ‘An encounter with these two groundbreaking figures at their most intimate,’ rhapsodises the Times.
Though I rather suspect that, even a century on, some of the works — perhaps Schiele’s full frontal Nude Self Portrait 1916, or Klimt’s Reclining Nude With Leg Raised, 1912-13 — might be just a little heady for some Royal Academy regulars.
Oh, TO be a fly on the wall when the Surrey WI group disembark from their luxury coach to come face to face with Schiele’s explicit self-portrait, with its hairy forearms, furry legs and plenty else. No wonder the exhibition breaks new ground at the often staid Royal Academy, an intensely traditional institution founded in 1768 — festooned as it is with warnings about ‘adult content’.
A visitor looks at paintings from the flower series by Egon Schiele, the student of Gustav Klimt
But what else would you expect from this couple of sexually obsessed artistic rogues? They had plenty in common. Both came from modest backgrounds, and both lived and worked and thrived in turn of the century Vienna.
Here the intellectual elite were experiencing an explosion of sexual awakenings and embraced Sigmund Freud, the music of Gustav Mahler and the plays of Arthur Schnitzler with a fervour.
But even in this avant-garde society, arch modernists and Expressionists Klimt and Schiele managed to scandalise — both with their art and their lifestyles.
They were nothing less than obsessed with sex — painting it, enjoying it, watching it, but perhaps most of all depicting the abandonment of post coitus, the arm flung back, the arch of the body. They painted real sex, with sprawled bodies, splayed legs and raw flesh.
And never just from their