If you can, always open with some boobs. Be warned that this blog and also the Klimt and Schiele at the RA is not fit for work. There are many boobs, and more than a couple of vaginas and the odd penis. You have then been worked. This is basically high class porn. Drawn porn if you will. Still I shall talk about it anyway.
Despite this I prefer Schiele's work. Klimt's sketches while technically superb and often very detailed I find very cold and classical. Schiele by contrast is often spiky, quick and full at character. You get the feeling there is an actual person being depicted rather than a type, and indeed this is often borne out by the labels. I prefer actual people. The other thing I spotted that was interesting was the use of materials. Both used packing paper. Presumably because it was very cheap.
Klimt though can give you a very fine lesson in how to conduct a drawing study, particularly in this female nude (he only does men from the back), rendered three times, in slightly different ways and from different angles. I particularly like the third one with the excellent use of shading to give the tonal contrast and a three dimension feel to the picture whereas the first one has more a feeling of motion. They all have boobs.
You get colour with Schiele you see as in this rather fine pen and watercolour portrait of a man. I like the washed multicoloured torso contrasting with the detailed face and those odd spectral hands, vein highlighted particularly the odd left hand poised as though holding a drink, or possibly a fag. Contrastingly Klimt's almost manga like naked lady picture. It is a type not a person.
He does vivid flesh tones well in the case of the red head on the left where as the possibly early teens prostitute from late 19th century Vienna. Pale, thin and disinterested. A very visceral indictment of the sex trade. You are made to feel shame. Very effective. Again it is because you have an actual person here rather than a type.
Moving beyond portraiture Schiele does some interesting things. He was sent to prison for taking a pre-teen girl on a trip, in a way the RA portrays as naive rather than suspicious. So you get these soulful desperate pictures of chairs from prison interiors (above left).
On a more cheerful note there were three charming flower pictures (above right). This is where the use of packing paper works well as it has a velum like colour. Schiele makes good use of negative space, in that the flowers are more absent than they are there.
Back to lines. One thing Klimt developed (which Schiele later coped), was the positioning of the figure, with them extending from the bottom to above the top of the frame, and in the exact centre so they are like a human column (see above left). It is quite an interesting stylistic touch.
There is one example of a more detailed Klimt drawing and it is the one above of a woman. Shrouded in black, her face a barely visible dark grey and bleak looking it packs a punch and tells quite a story. The rectangle of light in the upper right hand corner makes the whole thing visible and bearable, and allows you to see the hat. Otherwise it would just be too dark.
The eyes and face sparkle with a real cheekiness to it, particularly the pose half turned away. Likewise the sketch of one of Schiele's early patrons, a railway inspector who brought a number of his works. There is a real affection for him in that sketch, and again we have the column thing going on. They are both done with quite spare simple lines.
There are about 7 of them flanking a corner in one room of the gallery. They are all of him in various poses, in none of them does he look even slightly happy about, well anything really. Some of them such as the one above left he is barely there, just a disembodied head, with arms marked by flashes of blue and a sweat band, like a sulky ill tennis player. Others like the nude next to it, he is very much all there with the same skin tone we saw in the nude female red head and the same stark humanity. It is hammered into your retina with the white highlight that halos the entire figure.
Finally we have full frontal nudity, dirty crouching nudity. Skinny gaunt musculature with this black substance leaking out forming a shadow, a trick he also uses in a female nude. its very upsetting.
Opposite these shameful (seems like the right word) self portraits are more affectionate pen and ink portraits of family (above left). The more shaded one is his mother, again showing a classic Schiele trick of having the head and hands with the torso merely suggested by their shape. The one on the left has the other Schiele classic, particularly in young women, the mixture of innocence and knowingness.
Through the next room and you have a series of ladies crotches. They are very well done and quite shocking but I mean why?
Klimt can also be filthy, but in a much more aesthetically pleasing images and you have too such examples here although they are very feint which is probably just as well. The one left is a red chalk image of a naked lady being fondled by another lady. The other, pencil line drawing is prudishly called woman with right leg raised, presumably because the title, woman fingering herself was just too much for the various curators who have displayed it.
If you want some disturbing and well rendered filth, and I have to say I did and was not disappointed, then this is the show for you, but you only have 3rd February. Also it is a master class in how to draw people.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.