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Indepth Arts News:

"Egon Schiele and Austrian Expressionists 1908-1925"
2000-09-24 until 2001-01-14
Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta
Milan, , IT Italy

In 1999 the Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta presented with great success the exhibition Gustav Klimt and the Viennese Secession, dedicated to the years between 1896 and 1905, marked by the decorative taste of the Jugendstil, as well as the stirrings leading towards a further evolution that from 1908 would take the Austrian artistic culture within Expressionist thought. This exhibition on Schiele and other protagonists of Austrian Expressionism is thus a logical follow on in the debate begun with the Klimt exhibition.

However, while the previous initiative aimed at the globality of the Secession movement and its protagonists, in this case the preference was to focus attention on five important names of Austrian Expressionism, each one representative of a different stylistic stance of the years between 1908 and 1925.

Schiele, Gerstl and Kokoschka were among the principal innovators of Austrian art following the turn of the century. Their works show the changes to colour and line due to the strengthening of the expressive urge. Kubin on the other hand is an Expressionist in his inner world that gathers together the legacy of moods and images of the Austrian past. He places these in contact and contrast with the formal and stylistic research of the Munich-based Expressionists such as Kandinsky, Marc and Klee of the Blaue Reiter, of whom he was a friend and associate. For Kubin, as well as Schiele and Kokoschka, the year 1908 represented a turning point towards a new creative phase. Herbert Boeckl, who only begins his artistic practice following 1918, represents instead the development of Austrian Expressionism, where interest in French art is conjugated with the debt towards Schiele and Kokoschka.

The exhibition begins in 1908, which sees the first exhibition of the works of the eighteen year old Egon Schiele, and ends in 1925, when throughout Europe a new artistic taste, no longer Expressionist, has become accepted. In Vienna in 1908 a noticeable shift occurs from the two dimensional and flat style of Secessionism towards other expressive inquiries. It is the year of Klimt's Kunstschau group that launches the young Oskar Kokoschka as the new star of the Viennese firmament.

It is also the year of the death of Gerstl, who in the arc of a few years goes from Post-impressionist Divisionism to a style of painting which is thick and strongly deconstructed, where colour acts as the absolute protagonist, as can also be seen in the works by Kokoschka and subsequently Boeckl. But in the same way that colour is charged with a new expressive function, line in the works by Schiele and Kokoschka also acquires an added nervousness and emotion, becoming the seismograph of the artist's internal upheavals.

The pathos of Schiele's creation is expressed in the first instance through the vibrant and nervous line which torments bodies, faces and landscapes. The exhibition comprises about 150 works among which an extraordinary selection of 80 works on paper by Egon Schiele on loan from the Graphische Sammlung Albertina in Vienna. Paintings and drawings from other public and private Austrian and European collections complete the display.

For Schiele as for Kubin (and for the latter totally so) drawing and watercolour constitute the principal vehicle for expression, the most immediate path towards creation and the most sincere voice for both their personal artistic intent and inner nature. They were thus great draftsmen as was Kokoschka, transforming the work on paper into a complete and profound artistic creation.

The fragility of the works on paper and particularly the watercolours makes this broad selection, which the Albertina in Vienna has very rarely allowed to travel outside the museum, all the more precious and rare. In fact, among the works we find many of the much loved works by Schiele, and those well known to the public thanks to the thousands of reproductions.

The presence of selected paintings completes Schiele's art, where the theme is only consummately expressed in painting, as in the case of the Krumau views and landscapes, almost always resolved through pictorial means, creating comparisons between the different results of the various artists.

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