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Sex & Death: Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude At The Courtauld Gallery

February 21, 2017 by in Reviews

4 December 2014, Litro

It’s almost hackneyed to find a fixation with death and sex in the city of Freud. This was a city whose ruling dynasty was thrown into crisis when its crown prince died in a suicide pact with his lover, and a city that spent its money building ornate sarcophaguses and its leisure time touring them in a vast cemetery that artist André Heller called an “aphrodisiac for necrophiles”. Schiele wrote that in Vienna “alles ist lebendig tot,” all is living dead. Sex, regenerative but also pestilential and perilous, was at the crux of a splendid, zombified society.  With HIV evolving itself into obsolescence, antibiotics trampling our most gruesome, nose-rotting STIs, the Global North has all but forgotten the latent mortality of sex, its creel of terrible potentials, from pregnancy when maternal mortality rates hovered near 40% to syphilis. Certainly for Egon Schiele, as for his hypocritically erotic and prudish Habsburg milieu, sex was a viper’s nest, prickling with the risks of venereal disease and social stigma. His sister Melanie claimed Schiele’s dalliances with prostitutes were a God-defying game of Russian roulette against the syphilis that disfigured, deranged and killed their father. Schiele’s drawings of carnal pleasure and its squalor made his reputation, but they also landed him in prison, charged with producing pornography and corrupting children.

Read more at Litro.