Archive for the ‘egon schiele’ Tag

Square Root of Instagram

In 2006 at Channel 4 (London) I commissioned a mobile-centred website called Big Art Mob. It enabled users to publish photos of Public Art (from sculptures to graffiti) from their mobile phones. In other words, it was basically Instagram 4 years before Instagram was invented. It was created with digital all-rounder Alfie Dennen (father of We Are Not Afraid) using a photo-publishing platform he had developed with partners named Moblog. I had been experimenting with Moblog for 18 months when a TV project about Public Art (The Big Art Project) came over the horizon and it struck me as an ideal place to apply Moblog technology.

The main difference from Instagram is that Big Art Mob’s photos were not in square format.

Today I went to see the Klimt / Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. I have been a big admirer of Schiele since I heard about him from David Bowie on a radio programme around the time Lodger was released (1979). At the time the Austrian painter was little known outside cognoscenti circles (eg the Marlborough Gallery in London). I was taught a little by Frank Whitford at Cambridge who wrote the Phaidon monograph on Schiele. And I won a travel scholarship at Girton to go study his work in Vienna around 1984. Last year while working at ORF in Vienna I got to do a bit of a self-shaped Schiele tour to mark the centenary of his death which I wrote about in On The Trail of Egon Schiele. I even had a stab at a Schiele in a painting class I recently attended locally:

adam gee copy of egon schiele painting

The exhibition was excellent, bringing out the contrast between how and why Schiele and his mentor Klimt drew. Along the way it reminded me of Klimt’s distinctive adoption of the square format in his portrait painting. Which got me thinking about which other artists went square.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a painting by Gustav Klimt, completed between 1903 and 1907. The portrait was commissioned by the sitter's husband, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer. The painting was stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt (1903-1907)

Klimt’s famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is 1.38m by 1.38m. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, a Jewish banker and sugar producer, husband of Adele. The painting was notoriously stolen by the Nazis in 1941 and displayed at Schloss Belvedere in Vienna, until being returned by the Austrian courts to Bloch-Bauer’s heirs in 2006 at which point it found a new home in New York. It is considered the zenith of Klimt’s golden period. It uses Klimt’s trademark technique of cropping the figure top and bottom to create a pillar through the canvas, here set slightly right to allow the bulk of the patterned dress or aura to balance the composition.

Square and portraits reminded me of the excellent Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain last year. The square format works particularly well in the double portraits which were the beating heart of that show.

My Parents 1977 by David Hockney born 1937

My Parents by David Hockney (1977)

The emotionally resonant My Parents is 1.83m by 1.83m, even more epic than the Klimt, yet with the most down-to-earth subjects. Each parent occupies their own half in a very different way – attentive mum, square on, in her own space; pre-occupied dad, at an angle, overlapping the furniture – subtly capturing the difference in parent-child relationship.

Hockney was born on 9th July 1937, eight days before my dad. Nine days later another German Jew, Gerda Taro, died in Spain. She has the tragic distinction of being the first female photojournalist to have been killed while covering war at the frontline. This evening I started watching My Private War for this year’s BAFTA judging, starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, a latter day Taro. Recently, also for voting purposes (BAFTA Documentary Film chapter), I watched the feature documentary Under The Wire, likewise about the life and death of Colvin (killed in Homs, Syria by an Assad regime air-strike). Taro was killed during the Spanish Civil War in a tragic accident involving a reversing Republican tank.

republican woman 1936 gerda taro

Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona by Gerda Taro (1936)

Taro was another stand-out squarist. She was partner of Magnum photojournalist Robert Capa. (Capa was introduced to the world by Picture Post in 1938, where my maternal grandfather worked. The Hungarian Jew, who famously lived out of a suitcase for most of his adult life, co-founded the Magnum photo agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson and others.) I saw Tara’s first ever US solo show at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2007. Capa picked up the habit from Taro and there are a number of square photographs attributed to Capa which are widely thought to actually be the work of Taro.

These days I find myself photographing square by default. I’ve enjoyed using Instagram for years as a platform for photography only (none of the Stories bollocks or video). Initially it was an excellent way to syndicate your photos across your social accounts (when it was linked to Flickr – the monopolists must have disconnected on account of Yahoo’s ownership of Flickr I guess). Square poses its own compositional challenges which by and large I enjoy rising to – there are not that many shots I take which can’t be accommodated in the stable, equal-sided space. It encourages the use of diagonals which can be dynamic. Here’s one of my favourite of my square compositions:

statue of george orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London)

Statue of George Orwell outside the BBC (New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London) March 2018

The square is stable enough to carry the two dark figures on the right side. Orwell’s statue is characteristically smoking, hence the appeal of the BBC smoker – both are fag in hand. Of course Orwell like Taro was a graduate of the Spanish Civil War but he made it home to the BBC and to die in the relatively civilised surroundings of UCH (University College Hospital, established by two of my distant ancestors on the Picture Post grandfather’s side, and where both my boys were born). Orwell’s house (at 1 South End Road) is along the same road in Hampstead/Parliament Hill where my dad grew up. He was a child of refugees from Nazi Germany.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

To round off these square stories, Taro was given a funeral, attended by thousands, by the Communist Party of France. She was buried at Père Lachaise on 1st August 1937 (what would have been her 27th birthday) in a grave designed by Alberto Giacometti. On the tomb is written, in French and Catalan

So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016 – an open-air display of Taro’s Spanish Civil War photos was included in the f/stop photography festival in Leipzig. Leipzig is where my dad was born in July 1937 in the shadow of the Nazi fascist regime, a swastika and eagle on his birth certificate. When f/stop ended, it was decided that the display would become permanent. This was partly financed through crowdfunding. On the night of 3rd/4th August 2016 (two days after Taro’s 106th birthday), the display was destroyed by being daubed with black tar-like paint. This dark act of destruction was widely suspected to be motivated by anti-semitism or anti-refugee politics. A further crowdfunding campaign more than raised the €4,000 required to restore the vandalised photos. The equal and opposite forces of creativity and destruction, light and dark, squared up to one another.

Be there and be square.

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Quote of the Day: Body’s Light

Egon Schiele : The Embrace (The Loving), 1917

The Embrace [The Loving] by Egon Schiele (1917)

Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from the outside.

Egon Schiele

to mark my visit to ‘Klimt / Schiele’ at The Royal Academy of Arts, London

More on Schiele & me here:

On the Trail of Egon Schiele

More Egon Schiele

Bowie & Schiele

 

On the trail of Egon Schiele

I first heard of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele in a radio interview with David Bowie when I was at school. At university I got a travel scholarship to do some research on him in Austria. I stayed a short train ride outside of Vienna (Payerbach-Reichenau) and, beside going into the city, I travelled out to Neulengbach (under an hour from the city centre) to where Schiele lived and had his studio at one of the most productive times of his life. When I went there that time (1984) there was no sign of Schiele in the town. When I went to ask the way to his studio I was told people didn’t talk about him.

Last summer I was working at ORF in Vienna and took the opportunity to revisit Neulengbach and various other Schiele-related places. In the intervening 33 years much has changed. Schiele has a strong presence in Neulengbach and in his nearby birthplace, Tulln, and is widely celebrated. There are posters across Vienna and galleries of various sizes.

In my eyes he’s one of the great artists of the 20th century and since this year is the centenary of his early death (at the age of just 28 from the Spanish flu epidemic in the wake of the Great War) I’m publishing this photo-post to mark the occasion. The day of his death was 31st October 1918 (his birth was 12th June, the same day as my other half).

egon schiele weg tulln austria

On the trail of Schiele in Tulln, Austria

egon schiele's birthplace - the station at Tulln, Austria

Schiele’s birthplace – upstairs in the station at Tulln

Schiele's birthplace - upstairs in the station at Tulln

The artist whose name dare not be spoken three decades ago is now celebrated and signed

Schiele's birthplace - plaque in the station at Tulln

The plaque at his birthplace

Schiele's birthplace - the station at Tulln

The station where his father was station master (before he set fire to it in his madness)

Schiele's school - Tulln, Austria

Schiele’s school, Tulln

egon schiele tulln austria

A presence in the streets of Tulln

gates of the egon schiele museum tulln austria

The Egon Schiele Museum – Tulln. Opened on the centenary of his birth (12th June 1990).

The Egon Schiele Museum - Tulln

The museum is housed in what was formerly the gaol. Schiele was imprisoned here in 1912.

statue of Egon Schiele outside the Egon Schiele Museum Tulln Austria

Statue of Schiele outside the Egon Schiele Museum, overlooking the Danube

advertisement poster for leopold museum schiele klimt august 2017

Schiele’s presence around Vienna – advertising the Leopold Museum

the atrium of the leopold museum vienna

The atrium of the Leopold Museum, Vienna – opened 2001

Leopold Museum, Vienna

Leopold Museum, Vienna – the world’s largest collection of Schiele’s paintings and drawings

atrium Leopold Museum, Vienna egon schiele

Leopold Museum, Vienna egon schiele poster

egon schiele sign neulengbach austria

Neulengbach where Schiele lived with his girlfriend/model Wally

egon schiele bust neulengbach austria 2016

Bust of Schiele in the centre of Neulengbach – erected in 2016

egon schiele platz neulengbach austria

Once invisible, he even has his own Platz now

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The courthouse in Neulengbach where Schiele was confined and sentenced

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The courthouse now contains a small museum

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

The orange on the cell bed (brought by Wally to paint and eat)

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Orange on cell bed

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

gaol guitar door

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Schiele’s cell

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

I had a moment in here – the whole place was empty

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Death mask in a cell

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

Schiele in cell (he’s on a plastic bag)

courthouse neulengbach austria bezirksgericht egon schiele

egon schiele strasse neulengbach austria

He’s now got a Place and a Street

egon schiele strasse neulengbach austria

on the way to his studio

egon schiele neuzilgasse neulengbach austria

And Wally’s even got her own lane

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele’s road – Au

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

A neighbouring house of the same period

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Site of Schiele’s house & studio – it was torn down in the 60s(?)

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele & Wally’s place (photographed 1963)

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Schiele’s house/studio

egon schiele neulengbach austria Schiele's road - Au

Captured for posterity by art historian Alessandra Comini

IMG_1956 egon schiele neulengbach austria prison museum

After the cell experience, Schiele left Neulengbach

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

In 1912 he moved to a studio in suburban Vienna (Hietzing) at 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

I happened to be staying in Hietzing by chance on this visit – beschert

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

Schiele’s studio is on the top floor

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

Treading in the great man’s footsteps

egon schiele studio Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstraße

He spotted his future wife (Edith) in the building opposite where she lived with her parents and sister

egon schiele Hietzing, Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

The Harms’ apartment – 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße, Vienna

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Both Edith and Egon died in this building in 1918

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Edith & Adele’s view of Egon’s place

Egon Schiele letter to Edith and Adele Harms 1914

A letter from Egon to sisters Edith and Adele Harms 1914

egon schiele Hietzing, 114 Hietzinger Hauptstraße edith harms

Klimt's grave Hietzing Josef Hoffmann: Grave of Gustav Klimt, Vienna Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave # 194

Schiele’s mentor, Gustav Klimt, is buried nearby in Hietzing Cemetery

Klimt's grave Hietzing Josef Hoffmann: Grave of Gustav Klimt, Vienna Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave # 194

Headstone designed by Josef Hoffmann – Cemetery Hietzing, Vienna, Group 5, Grave #194

Klimt's The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Klimt’s The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Klimt's The Kiss in Schloss Belvedere, Vienna

Truly magical

 

More Egon Schiele

egon_schiele_wilted_sunflowers painting 1914

1914 – on the eve of war

Following on from the last post, I’m now enjoying a weissbier and melange (white coffee) after sausages and sauerkraut in the central square of Tulln. It turned out the railway station was actually Schiele’s birthplace – his father was station master and Egon was born in the apartment that came with the job on the first floor. His earliest subjects as a budding artist of 6 or 7 were the trains.

On leaving the station up the cobbled lane you start to come across notices on the ground marked: Egon Schiele Weg (ES Way). This is in marked contrast to my 1984 visit to Neulengbach (where Schiele kept a studio in his key years with his lover Wally (Walburga Neuzil) and where his guardian had a summer house). On arrival I asked a man in the main street if he knew where Schiele’s studio was. He told me urgently that you can’t talk about that round here and hussled me off to a nearby bar. He bought me a white wine before launching into an apology (in the original sense – explanation) for Austria’s role in WW2 – they were poor being the crux of it. I failed to find the studio which I knew had been in a small country lane. I may try again tomorrow.

Following the Weg I came across a junior school named after Schiele in 2015 on the 125 anniversary of the birth of who is now recognised as ‘the most famous son’ of Tulln. Quite a turnaround since his still underground status in the 80s.

By the Danube is a small museum dedicated to Schiele’s early years which was established in 1990, on his centenary, just over 5 years after my scholarship visit. None of the paintings I saw there today in the Frühe Gemälde (Early Paintings) exhibition betray his genius or originality except one. He was only 17/18, not yet finding his voice, but a painting of sunflowers (a field of which I saw from the train at Klosterneuburg where Schiele went to secondary school and first exhibited (in the monastery)) showed the advent of a design sensibility which shaped his future work.

1908-sunflower-egon-schiele painting

1908 – on the eve of adulthood (aged 18)

Triple Coincidence No. 416 – Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele painting Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up, 1917

The picture on our bedroom wall – Schiele’s wife, Edith (1917)

I’m in Vienna for the first time in over 30 years for Doc Campus documentary workshop at ORF (Austrian TV). The last time I was here was on a scholarship from Girton College, Cambridge for research on the Austrian painter Egon Schiele.

I’d first heard about Schiele in a radio interview of David Bowie. At the time (mid-late 70s) Schiele was not well known outside of the Euro art cognoscenti. His description caught my imagination and I became a teen devotee, having always favoured a graphic approach to figurative art. At school I used to deliver drawings of, say, a glass of water that looked more like cut diamond.

So today I decided to go on a Schiele pilgrimage either to the site of his studio (Neulengbach, just outside of Vienna, where I had a memorable visit in around 1984) or his birthplace (Tulln). I’m writing this on an S-bahn to Tulln.

As I was reading Schiele stuff online this morning in my pension room near Schwedenplatz I noticed for the first time ever that he shares a birthday with my wife. (Along with Anne Frank and Robert Elms.) There is a reproduction of a painting by Schiele in the corner of our bedroom which my wife bought me years ago: it is inscribed “thanks for always bringing pictures”.

I left the room to go to the hotel for the workshop. As the taxi ride dragged on I felt irritated by how far out of the city centre the hotel they had chosen was, out near Schloss Schönbrunn at Hietzing. Never heard of the place. Not much zing. Burbs.

I dumped my stuff and got on the U-bahn to go to to Franz Josef station for the train to Tulln.

I have just set foot in Tulln, sitting on the platform to finish this. Schiele’s father was an official at this station.

On the underground to the train station I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Schiele. Lo & behold there is a mention of sleepy old Hietzing! Schiele had a studio at 101 of the Hauptstrasse I just walked down. (I’ll go check out the site later.) It is here he met his wife Edith Harms, who lived opposite and features in many of his later paintings. She died three days before him in the Spanish flu epidemic in the wake of WW1. He was just 28 but had brought a new modern expressionist vision to painting.

Update, 5pm:

On the way back from Tulln I’m reading my book on the train – The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido, a novel with nothing to do with painters – at least it hadn’t had until I got to the shores of the Danube at Tulln where, as I was reading, one of the main characters meets a student painter at college in Edinburgh. On the train back I got to a passage where this student painter’s style is described: “Stella thinks they [the student painter’s paintings] are maybe just a bit like Auerbach; maybe just slightly like Auerbach crossed with Egon Schiele.”

Bowie: The Next Day

I’m sure many people are feeling Bowied out by now with all the media coverage and social media outpourings but I still want to capture the moment (not least for myself), and book-end a sombre day with the reflections that have bubbled up in the last 16 hours on a truly great man.

David Bowie

One Bowie

{This is a picture from one of my old posts (hence the odd caption – I can’t recall the context) but I really love it, so…}

Like many people I immersed myself today in Bowie’s music – drawn initially, of all the 25 long players (studio LPs), to Station to Station (it was interesting where my heart took me when push came to shove). And then to Blackstar because he wouldn’t want us looking back too much. And on to Lodger because …well it got me thinking, why does that one resonate? – it was a moment when he had a significant impact on my life…

1979. I was mainly into punk. One evening I was at home laying across my bedroom floor listening to a radio show on Radio 1 called something like Conversations with Bowie. I think I may still have a recording of it on cassette tape in a drawer somewhere. During the long (two part?) interview, centred on the making of Lodger, his newest record, he mentioned an artist who was making a big impact on him around then but was largely unknown at the time. Egon Schiele. I’d never heard of him, and I knew a fair bit about art (for a 16 year old). He was very little known in Britain then. What Bowie said struck me and I made a mental note which I followed up…

Egon_Schiele_zelfportret

Thin White Bloke: a Bowie-like Egon Schiele

Fast-fwd to four years later >>> I won a travel scholarship (the Morrison Grant) from Girton College, Cambridge to study Egon Schiele’s work in Vienna. It was a significant landmark in my growing up, helping consolidate my interest in art and Modernism as well as providing a colourful independent travel adventure. Thank Bowie for that.

Another Teutonic moment: Exactly this time last year I went to Berlin with Enfant Terrible No. 2 (who loved it – the cafes, the wandering about, the whole vibe). On one of our flâneur sessions we stopped at a big record shop and I came across a box set called Zeit of Bowie’s Berlin period – Low, Heroes, Lodger and the live double LP Stage. I bought it as the perfect souvenir of a beautiful trip. I’m going back this coming weekend (apposite timing given today’s news) with Enfant Terrible No. 1. He was playing Bowie in his room at Bournemouth University last night, pulling a semi-all-nighter for an essay, pretty much when the star light was darkening over in NYC.

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Father & Son

And on the subject of family members, our cat is called Ziggy after Bowie’s Ziggy. I was looking for a pair of names for our pair of cats and the one that found favour after a social media call-out was Ziggy & Stardust. (Her hair’s even better than Bowie’s, well worthy of her name.)

My director showreel when I first went freelance was to the soundtrack of Sound and Vision. I can’t hear that song any more without seeing some of those pictures including an underwater swimmer shot by DoP Jack Hazan (Rude Boy, A Bigger Splash) and Martin Luther King delivering his I Had a Dream speech from within an H shape (which represented the word Hearing).

The last Bowie moment that comes to what is now a somewhat weary mind on this grey day is not either of the occasions I saw him play live – 1983 on the Serious Moonlight tour in Grenoble (we had fun because he was clearly having fun) and 1985 at Live Aid – but set in a North London exam room as I sat my O Level English. We had to write a creative story and mine was ‘inspired by’ (for which read ‘an unsubtle rip-off of’) Please Mr Gravedigger from his first LP (David Bowie of 1967), simply transposed into prose with lots of fancy adjectives. I got an A. I went on to do A Level and S Level English, then literature subjects at university, bringing us back to Girton.

Another half-thought emerges: as I approached those A Levels I grew heartily sick of school and spent the second half of the second year of 6th form in my dad’s house (not where I grew up) shacked up in a bedroom with two things for comfort: a pile of Jane Austen books and two Bowie cassettes: ChangesTwoBowie and Rare. I did no work, just read that pile and listened to that slightly off-beat pair of compilations. All the exam shit worked out fine and it was a suitably intense teenage moment.

Just four and a half moments of different scales where Bowie had a benign and positive influence on my life. There are many others, many associated with particular records or songs – from Let’s Dance in a small bedsit in Chambéry, Savoy when I first cut the umbilical cord from home (at Boulevard des Capucines chez les Pachouds) to V2 Schneider on the jukebox during a Baltic educational cruise aboard the SS Uganda) – many moments of intrigue, delight and inspiration from someone who ultimately is a true genius and by all accounts (many today) a real mensch.

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I & eye

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Big Ones

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Little Ones

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