Schiele at The Drawing Room: "The Nakeds"

It’s been open less than a week and our latest exhibition Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude has received fantastic reviews and record visitor numbers, but it’s not just The Courtauld Gallery that has a fascination with Schiele.

We invited guest blogger Kate Macfarlane, Drawing Room Co-Director to tell us about their newest exhibitionThe Nakeds‘, featuring work of Schiele alongside many notable artists.


Kate Macfarlane, Drawing Room Co-Director & Guest Blogger

Installation View of the Nakeds exhibtion at the Drawing Room Gallery in London

“The Nakeds”, Installation view, The Drawing Room

‘The Nakeds’ includes artists’: David Austen, Fiona Banner, Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, George Condo, Enrico David, Marlene Dumas, Tracey Emin, Leon Golub, Stewart Helm, Chantal Joffe, Maria Lassnig, Paul McCarthy, Chris Ofili, Carol Rama, Egon Schiele, Nancy Spero, Georgina Starr, Alina Szapocznikow, Rosemarie Trockel, Nicola Tyson, Andy Warhol and Franz West.

In ‘The Nakeds‘ exhibition, drawings by Egon Schiele are presented alongside the work of 22 modern and contemporary artists.   We present a perfect pair of exquisitely sensitive  pencil drawings by Schiele:  a self-portrait in which he assumes an unusually effeminate attitude and a portrait of Wally, his mistress.  Both are partially clothed, with the pubic area exposed.

View of drawings by Egon Schiele withing the Draing Room Gallery's exhibition The Nakeds

“The Nakeds”, Installation View, The Drawing Room, London

These works are exhibited with tender line drawings of naked male figures made by Andy Warhol in the 1950s, delicate drawings celebrating female power made by Joseph Beuys in the 1950s, through to new works made by contemporary London based artists Enrico David and  Chantal Joffe and New York based Nicola Tyson.  Direct from the artists’ studios come drawings by Rosemarie Trockel collectively titled ‘I feel something’  and a ‘wordscape’ describing the performance of a stripper  by Fiona Banner.

"The Nakeds", Exhibition View, The Drawing Room, London

“The Nakeds”, Exhibition View, The Drawing Room, London

Presenting drawings made today alongside those produced in the early part of the 20th century has the effect of demonstrating that drawing is an enduring and in some ways unchanging medium.  Drawing and nakedness sit very comfortably together.  Drawing is a stripped down thing.  With the simplest of means it can capture an arresting image or conjure a sensation, a feeling. Nakedness is not simply a physical condition.  It suggests a figure stripped of clothing, perhaps by force; like drawing, the word naked conjures a raw and spare condition.

View of The Nakeds exhibtion at the Drawing View, Two large drawings by Egon Schiele

“The Nakeds”, installation view, The Drawing Room,

The Nakeds’, like most of Drawing Room’s projects, evolved through a collaborative process. In this case myself and co-director Mary Doyle developed the exhibition in partnership with artist David Austen and art historian Professor Gemma Blackshaw.

The latters specialisation in Austrian art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Austen’s exploration of the fragility of the human condition through watercolour, painting and film, provided refreshingly divergent starting points. Drawing Room’s activities are inspired by spending time in the studios of contemporary artists (indeed we share our building with 25 artists), and this exhibition gave Gemma the opportunity to engage with contemporary female practitioners and to look at the work of Schiele through their eyes.

Her incisive and revealing findings are presented in her essay for the exhibition catalogue which also includes a ‘film script’ by David Austen and a ‘Letter to Egon Schiele’ by artist Nicola Tyson.

Various events compliment the exhibition including film screenings and a seminar on 10 November which will include contributions from David Austen, Gemma Blackshaw, Professor Jon Bird, Simon Grant, and by artists Stewart Helm and Chantal Joffe.

In Outset Study (our unique open access resource comprising a growing reference library of books on contemporary international drawing) we feature Artists’ Reading Lists, fascinating titles hand-picked by artists in ‘The Nakeds’.

Coming up at Drawing Room is the first solo exhibition in a UK public gallery of Mexican artist Daniel Guzmán (opening 13 December– 21 February 2015).

In March our renowned  Drawing Biennial 2015 will open (5 March – 29 April 2015) and include drawings by over 200 key contemporary practitioners which are available for sale from £250.

The Nakeds‘ runs at Drawing Room, London, SE1 until 29 November 2014

Contemporary Greats: Finding Inspiration in The Courtauld's Collection

Pierre-Albéric Coulouma, Marketing and Communications

Regrets is a haunting series of painting and drawings by Jasper Johns, inspired by a photograph of Lucian Freud posing in Francis Bacon’s studio.

This display at The Courtauld Gallery has prompted me to look at other works within the collection which have inspired contemporary artists. The artworks I discuss below are drawn at random, but have a common thread of using female characters to convey different stories.

Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère is one of the Courtauld’s most famous paintings, and continues to intrigue.

This masterpiece helped define modern painting at the dawn of the 19th century with its unorthodox composition of figures in space, and with the barmaid’s notorious look conveying mystery and melancholy to the viewer.

Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-82

Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-82

Jeff Wall pioneered conceptual and post conceptual photography while establishing The Vancouver School with fellow artists Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, and others. Hey may have initially encountered A Bar at the Folies-Bergères when researching his PhD at The Courtauld Institute of Art between 1970 and 1973. 

Like Manet’s painting, Jeff Wall has challenged tradition with his groundbreaking work A Picture for Women. Also writer, lecturer and art theorist, Wall is known for making references to art history in his practice and A Picture for Women is directly inspired by A Bar at the Folies-Bergères.

View of Jeff Wall, Picture for Women, 1979, transparency in lightbox, 142.5 x 204.5 cm, Courtesy of the artist

Jeff Wall, Picture for Women, 1979, transparency in lightbox, 142.5 x 204.5 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

Both Manet’s and Wall’s works make use of a mirror image, where lights in the background provide spatial depth.

Manet depicts a myriad of distracting elements providing some clues on the context and narrative of this original work, while Wall’s work is more minimalistic, and gives priority to the interplay between the two main figures and the camera standing in the middle.

Both works seem to internalise a connection between two characters and the viewer. Whereas the barmaid in A Bar at the Folies-Bergères strikes the viewer with her look; A Picture for Women engages the viewer both through the female character’s expression and through the central camera.

The women in the two pieces have the same posture, and most strikingly, look out of the frame in the same way. In both cases a male figure stares at them from a shadowy background; emphasising their evading gaze.

The identity of the man in A Bar at the Folies-Bergères is not confirmed, though most agree that Manet himself is the most likely candidate. Jeff Wall echoes this theory by portraying himself in his photograph.

The relationship between the model, the artist, and the viewer produces a tension by turning the viewer into a sort of witness on the scene. This mise-en-scene is said to depict the ‘power relationship between male artist and female model’ (1) and author David Campany also takes a gender themed approach and comments on the patriarchal contemporary visual culture where ‘women’ connotates ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’ (2).

Other contemporary artists have found inspiration in Impressionist masterpieces. A recent exhibition at the Hayward Gallery called The Human Factor presented two works derived from Edgard Degas’s Dancer.

View of Edgar Degas, Two Dancers on the Stage, 1874

Edgar Degas, Two Dancers on the Stage, 1874

Ryan Gander has produced a series of bronze sculptures based on Degas’ Dancers. With playfulness, Gander creates a new life for Degas’s subject.

View of Ryan Gander, Out of sight (all on my own), 2011, 2 Bronze sculptures, two blue cubes and two empty plinths, est size 45(h) x 35(w) x 40(d) each (sculptures) © the artist; Courtesy, Lisson Gallery, London

Ryan Gander, Out of sight (all on my own), 2011, 2 Bronze sculptures, two blue cubes and two empty plinths, est size 45(h) x 35(w) x 40(d) each (sculptures) © the artist; Courtesy, Lisson Gallery, London

As in a fantasy the model comes back to life and starts to wander off the gallery space. Off her plinth for a cigarette break, or seemingly crying in a corner, the ballerina becomes an individual leading us to believe in new narratives. Gander points out this is not about replicating Degas’ sculpture, ‘it’s about reproducing the character of the ballerina who posed for him.’

Yinka Shonibare is often known as the artist who put « Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle » for its occupancy of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. His work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism and a hallmark of his art is the brightly coloured fabric he uses.

View of Yinka Shonibare MBE. “Girl Ballerina,” 2007 Courtesy of the artist

Yinka Shonibare MBE. “Girl Ballerina,” 2007, Courtesy of the artist.

Shonibare reinterprets a masterpiece by dressing up Degas’ dancer with his signature African-inspired costume, adding an 18th century pistol to her hand. The outcome is a juxtaposition of three strong signifiers: Degas’s dancers, the African inspired costume and an 18th century pistol.

Consequently, this work strongly suggests issues around colonialism and/or post-colonialism as it draws parallels between the occident, Africa and colonialism.

In sharp contrast to Jeff Wall who focuses on art history to challenge photographic tradition and Ryan Gander’s concept of introspection in the Dancer, Shonibare uses art history as a platform and a tool to express this thinking on colonialism and/or post-colonialism.


See The Courtauld Gallery’s collection for yourself – open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.

Images provided courtesy of Jeff Wall, Ryan Gander and Yinka Shonibare.



(1) From the gallery guide for the exhibition ‘Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978-2004’, Tate Modern, London, 21 October 2005 – 8 January 2066; and quoted in D. Campany, ‘Jeff Wall, Picture for Women’, Afterall, 2011.
(2) D. Campany, ‘Jeff Wall, Picture for Women’, Part of One Work Series, Afterall Books, 2011.