[...] I have chosen Egon Schiele’s drawing, titled Standing Nude Girl, which he made in 1910. Egon Schiele admired “19th c. pornographer Felicien Rops” (Whitford, F., 1981, p. 88), and he explored notions of eroticism and sexual behavior himself in his work. His art was quite shocking for early 20th c. Vienna, and it is easy to understand this, especially if we take into consideration the fact that the very representation of, for example, the act of masturbating, even today, might not be condemned, but it would be examined in the context of its presentation, of the total of the artist’s works, the aim of the artist and so on. Which means that a provocative work of art, even today may be put under close scrutiny before it is considered “art”, and it is certain that many voices would readily support the “mores of society” instead of the right of the artist to explore his artistic possibilities and the “dark side of his unconscious”.
Schiele’s Standing Nude Girl is standing facing the viewer, as she probably did at the studio, facing the artist while he was drawing her. The figure of the girl is dominating the space as she stands alone right at the centre of the rectangular material on which she is immortalized. The composition, seems deceptively harmonious as she stands right in the centre, leaving a small space over her tilting head, as well as to her sides, while the down part of the paper has no margin left, with the legs of the girl being drawn almost up to the knee. Thus, on the one hand she acquires an earthly quality and on the other hand the viewer is left with a feeling that he/she would like to see more, to see the whole of the beautiful girl.
She dominates the space around her as if she is magnified; however, the harmony mentioned above is deceptive because if we look more carefully, we see that she her body is “twisted”, in a snake-like manner. Her left hip is tilted sideways thus letting the viewer get a glimpse of her buttocks; her upper body seems artificially erect, flat and turned en face, especially in relation to the body waist down, which makes us think that either Schiele wanted to underline the immaturity of the very young girl (flat chest, awkward posing), or that he aimed at creating an icon of the idea of the awakening of the eroticism of a young girl, through the accentuated hip posture and the rather big buttocks, which are an allusion to the vulgar side of exhibiting a young girl’s body. This possibly also carries another connotation on the part of Schiele: as it is mentioned by Whitford, he used to hire working class girls for models, and by the accentuated buttocks, he may be alluding to the stereotype about the sexual vulgarity of the working class. Which in turn make him victim to bourgeois morality or makes the drawing a criticism of it.
The right arm of the girl is unfinished; it seems to be touching an object, because of its position, but also because her head rests on it. The arm, except for the hand, vanishes into the colour of the background: this may be a useful hint on innovations made by the artist (i.e. the unfinished body), and/or information on the subject-matter, a hint to further consider the torso as important, and concentrate on it. Furthermore, it is so well done, that one thinks that the whole body, arm included, is drawn and present. The background and the body of the girl share similar tones of beige, greyish, and pinkish, while around her body, especially on the left hand side, her contour is further highlighted by a line of white colour. It is a distorted image of a girl with big hands, again a possible exaggeration of characteristics owed to her class (…) in contrast to the young and thin body. The girl seems to come out of this pale background, paler than her body, which looks like a cloud; she comes out, not yet transformed into a fully grown woman, although the erogenous zones and organs are fully accentuated with the use of red colour.
Her nipples, her mouth, her genitals are coloured red. Her look is calm, consenting, surprised at the power of her nudity, but still not quite knowing the full meaning of pleasure. This is a drawing, a work about adolescent female sexuality, the female awakening. Given the overall quality of the treatment of the subject-matter, one might say that Schiele makes also a comment about the female sexuality as progressively becoming imposing and wild, able to be dealt with in young girls, who are not fully aware of their “domineering” possibilities. He seems to believe in femmes-fatales. This is the story of the Chryssalis turning into a butterfly, as seen by an artist of early 20th c. Schiele transgressed various rules and norms of his time, but here innuendos may be found which are not at all flattering for women, and show him as an individual creating within certain stereotypes of his era as well as his personal ghosts. Today, “Lolita” drawings, would create arise suspicion, as the issue of molesting children and pedophilia are more openly discussed and confronted, while there is less tolerance, even in the artistic context. The ambiguous paintings of Balthus, or the frightening gardens of the Chapman brothers, are both wonderful to watch as well as repulsive to think of them in real life.