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The Embrace (Lovers)

Egon Schiele • Painting, 1917, 100×170.2 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Nude
Style of art: Expressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1917
Size: 100×170.2 cm
Artwork in selections: 95 selections

Description of the artwork «The Embrace (Lovers)»

No matter what European museum of classical or contemporary art you find yourself in, there will be nudity, a lot of female body, a little less male. But only the paintings of Egon Schiele cause a strange awkwardness and a panicky desire to turn away after a few minutes of study. And the point is not at all in the piquancy of the scenes depicted, but in the fact that the artist depicted something more than nakedness, he exposed the souls of his subjects. There is one tone Schiele never used in his portrayal of sexual passion and desire — he never was playful or giggling. His sensuality is desperate and painful, sacred and salvific. “I paint the light pouring from all bodies,” Schiele said.

Egon Schiele’s The Embrace (The Lovers) is often compared to the Bride of the Wind by the Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka, which had been painted three years earlier. With clear similarities in composition and subject matter, those works are charged emotionally and symbolically in completely different ways. The Kokoschka’s subject is alone in his confrontation with the terrible element, his beloved is sleeping peacefully and she does not feel the anxiety of the coming terrible world. Schiele’s lovers escape in each other, they find a short-lived feeling of happiness in a passionate and nervous embrace. The experiences of the man and the woman are similar here: Schiele freed the woman from the centuries-old need to be an object of sexual desire in art and allowed her to be a subject of mutual cognition, to feel what man feels: fear, desire, insecurity, power, suffering, pleasure.

The picture was painted by a young man who was 27 years old, but that young man had only one year left to live, and this was his personal time of maturity. More than 40 self-portraits, which Schiele had painted by that time, were to study and record what it was like to live in a man’s body. Hundreds of drawings and paintings of naked teenage girls (1, 2) and women taught Schiele to feel what it is like to be in a woman’s body.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova