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



Front cover of TimeOut London from 14 October 2014

Last week The Courtauld Gallery was recognised as London’s top destination for paintings, with A Bar at the Folies-Bergère taking first place in a poll by leading art world figures.

This masterpiece from our collection made it through a tough nomination process, 600 artworks were initially selected by ‘top figures in the art world’ and a second vote narrowed the number of paintings to just 100.

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

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

It wasn’t just the top spot we claimed, Gauguin’s Nevermore was also selected in the top ten and placed seventh.

View of Nevermore by Paul Gauguin, painted in 1897

Paul Gauguin, Nevermore, 1897

TimeOut is also asking its readers to tell them their favourite, voting is open so why not take part?

This isn’t the first time this year that A Bar at The Folies Bergeres has reached the top spot, winning “most unforgettable face” in poll by the The Guardian.

It’s not hard to see why it is one of the art world’s best-loved works; this masterpiece helped define modern painting in 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.

Painted between 1881 – 1882 and first exhibited in 1882at the annual fine arts exhibition in Paris, the Salon, this work was  bought by Samuel Courtauld in 1926 and it consequently became part of The Courtauld Gallery Collection when Samuel Courtauld bequeathed his collection to The Courtauld Institute of Art.

For more information watch our short film here.

Why not tell us about your favourite works from our collection in the comments below?


Showcase Week: The Nude

The Courtauld Prints and Drawings Room Presents…

The week of the 13 – 17 October is an exciting time for the Prints and Drawings Room. For one week only the staff have selected five of our most striking works on paper featuring the nude for public viewing.

Between 1.30pm and 5pm our doors are open without an appointment with each work selected for one day only. Our friendly staff are eager to introduce their chosen works to the public and will be on hand to discuss them and answer questions.

Our Prints and Drawings Study Room Assistants introduce their selection…


Monday 13 October: Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings on Jacopo Tintoretto’s Studies after Michelangelo’s ‘Samson and the Philistines’ from 1550-55.

View of Jacopo Tintoretto’s Studies after Michelangelo’s ‘Samson and the Philistines’ from 1550-55

Jacopo Tintoretto, Studies after Michelangelo’s ‘Samson and the Philistines’, 1550-55

Jacopo Tintoretto explores the body in action in this drawing after Michelangelo’s lost model for a sculpture of Samson and the Philistines, originally designed as a pendant to his David. Although the sculpture was never realised, numerous small-scale copies of the model were produced in the 1550s and Tintoretto would have studied the group from such a model. Throughout his career Tintoretto was fascinated by Michelangelo’s representations of the heroic nude, making numerous studies of them.

Here the figures are shown from behind. Tintoretto explores the musculature of Samson’s twisting, tense body as he raises his arm to launch a blow on his foe. Tintoretto is particularly interested in capturing the position and form of the muscles and upper body of Samson, which he investigates in two further sketches on the sheet.


Tuesday 14 October: Camilla Pietrabissa on Peter Paul Rubens’ Female Nude from 1628-30.

View of drawing by Peter Paul Rubens. Female Nude, 1628-30

Peter Paul Rubens. Female Nude, 1628-30

There are few surviving drawings from the nude female model by Rubens. It may be that female models were uncommon in Rubens’s studio or that the artist’s wife, Helena Fourment, destroyed the drawings, as was the case with a number of his paintings.

In this large study, an opulent reclining female figure seems to emerge out of the bare paper. The draped garments or sheets behind the figure’s head, and the detail of the narrow lace band on her left arm, suggest the possibility of a study after life. Rubens was interested in the plasticity of the body, so he used a combination of red and white chalk as a means to render the different tones of the flesh and the light rippling on its surface.

The figure’s pose is strikingly similar to Ruben’s copy of a painting by Titian (The Bacchanal of the Andrians, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid), and may thus be a reworking of another drawing or painting in preparation for Ruben’s masterful copy (Nationalmuseum är Sveriges, Stockholm).


Wednesday 15 October: Rachel Hapoienu on Georges Seurat’s Female Nude from 1879-81.

View of drawing by Georges Seurat’s Female Nude from 1879-81

Georges Seurat, Female Nude, 1879-81

Life classes at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where Seurat was a student, focussed on the male form. As a result he produced relatively few studies of the female nude, of which this is a rare example. This sheet may have been produced at one of the city’s open studios, or perhaps from a session with a private model.

The drawing is defined by its heavy use of chiaroscuro, or deep shadows, composed through the vigorous web of crayon marks and his use of stumping (smudging the crayon) to produce an image of great atmosphere and drama. The stillness of the figure emerging from Seurat’s infinitely varied and rapid marks exudes an extraordinary sense of restrained energy and sensuality.


Thursday 16 October: Niccola Shearman on Oskar Kokoschka’s Homage to Hellas Volume I – Wrester I (Ringer I) from 1961-62.

View of drawing by Oskar Kokoschka’s Homage to Hellas Volume I – Wrester I (Ringer I) from 1961-62

Oskar Kokoschka, Homage to Hellas Volume I – Wrester I (Ringer I), 1961-62

Oskar Kokoschka wrestled with depictions of the human figure throughout his career. This lithograph belongs to a series resulting from a trip to Greece in 1961.

The journey was evidently a form of pilgrimage for the artist, who believed that it was an insight into the ‘light of the human spirit’ which had led the ancient Greeks to create art from the human image. In retaining his humanist faith in the physical form, Kokoschka was unusual in the post-WWII art world, where a collective despair at the inhumanity of events led the deliberate pursuit of non-figurative abstraction amongst the majority of avant-garde painters.

Having developed a form of ‘blind drawing’ aimed at producing a dynamic image over painstaking linear accuracy, Kokoschka executed his drawings straight onto lithographic transfer paper for later printing in the studio. The resulting print preserves the gestural energy of the crayon in a manner that matches the vigour of the subject, particularly noticeable in the generous sweep of the figure’s robust arms.


Friday 17 October: Rosamund Garrett on Lucian Freud’s Reclining Figure from 1993.

Freud made a number of paintings and etchings of the larger than life character of Leigh Bowery, the performance artist and transvestite fashion designer notorious on the London club scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although he often relished depicting Bowery’s muscular and heavy-set physique, here Freud focuses on the quieter and more reflective side of the man, capturing him in the vulnerable intimacy of sleep.

Referring to his nudes as ‘naked portraits’, Freud chose unflattering poses that are natural in the way that individuals sleep or relax alone. His unusual vantage points and extreme foreshortening rebuke the tradition of the ideal nude. Working from life directly onto the etching plate, the artist’s frank scrutiny of his subject in blatant disregard of any persisting taboos about the body aims, in his own words, to ‘astonish, disturb, seduce, convince’.


Drop in to the Prints and Drawings Room on the mezzanine floor of the East Wing between 1.30 and 5pm from the 13 – 17 October for a thoroughly revealing exploration of the nude in art through the centuries!


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.