17 July 2017

Erotic Art: The Egon Schiele Case

Eros in Art

 ” No work of erotic art is obscene if it is artistically relevant; only the observer who is intimately vulgar can make it obscene.” E.S.

But in reality what is the meaning of perverse?E.S. 

Erotic: Adj. [from the lat. Late Erotĭcus, gr. Erōtikós, der. Of Érōs-Ōtos “love”, prob. Through the fr. Érotique (Pl.). – 1. a. related to love, as a physiological fact: desire, impulse; mania; erotic delirium. b. Being particularly subject to sexual stimulus: ex. erotic temperament. 2. a. To have physical love, sexual impulses and facts as objects: treating related topics and having speeches about it, books, stories and literature, publications, and also films, shows, drawings and art, with particular reference to the Chinese and Indian culture, secular or religious art, which explicitly represents scenes of love life, mostly with didactic intents. In a broader sense, writer, or poet who is subject to love in general; especially when referring to ancient writers and poets: ex. Greeks. b. Getting excited or tending to excite the senses, to stimulate sexual instincts: food and drink, aphrodisiacs; and erotic dances.

Eroticism is therefore linked to the concept of love, the physical, carnal, impulsive kind of love.

From Saffo to Diderot, Wilde, D’Annunzio, de Sade, all the ages have literature about erotic love. Every era has represented erotism, from Kama Sutra to Japanese illustrations, Ingres, Courbet, and then Klimt, Milo Manara and Crepax, Picasso, Haring, just to mention a few names. Today we’re going to talk about Egon Schiele.

The Anguished Erotism by Egon Schiele

Misunderstood artist with a complex personality, Schiele has been one of the protagonists of Austrian expressionism. He lived between XIX and XX century, and introduced a new artistic wave. He died at the age of 28 due to an epidemic, leaving a large number of artworks: more than 3000 paintings, watercolors and drawings. We know that in 1912, the 21 years old Egon Schiele was arrested. The charge was twofold: seduction of an underage and exhibition of pornographic material at a place accessible to minors. On that occasion, 125 erotic drawings were confiscated. It is documented that there was no violence on the minor. Schiele was acquitted of the most serious charge, but was found guilty of the other. The sentence was limited to 3 weeks in prison.

His drawings, populated by lascivious subject with incarnate pale and sharp bodies, are powerful and fragile at the same time. We are hit by the perturbing poses, the broken and troubled lines, the very strong erotic charge they communicate In his work, he oozes a primordial, pure, carnal eroticism. Think about Vienna in those years, and how appearance was important, we are in the polite and bourgeois Austria of the early XIX century, and now try to imagine how an eccentric and out of the box artist like Schiele could have been seen. Pornography! Scandal! Perversion!

But let us be clear, behind those flawless neoclassical front, there was much more: prostitution, pedophilia; who do you think the buyers of his artworks were? Collecting  erotic works was very common, but only behind closed doors.

 Article by Elisa Martino