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Facing the Modern at the National Gallery

By October 31, 2013January 18th, 2018Blog, Inspiration

After my recent inspiring visit to Frieze Masters I decided to visit another art exhibition. Having kept away from art exhibitions for a long time so I could find my own voice without influence from others it is wonderful to indulge again! Next on my list was-

Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900

The striking paintings of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka star in this major exhibition which examines the central role portraiture played in Viennese painting around 1900.

Despite the overriding theme of death in this collection of paintings with the death mask of Beethoven setting the precedent at the start of the exhibition I found it touching and mesmerizing. It is quite extraordinary how portraiture transformed beyond recognition during this brief and extraordinary period.

Wonderful pieces by the iconic Klimt an artist I have long admired. Amazing to see how accomplished he is early on in his career producing efficient society pieces and how his style developed into immediately recognizable work of Klimt.



The last portrait is the centerpiece of the exhibition. The female subject is Amalie Zuckerland and Gustav Klimt’s death in 1918 rendered this portrait permanently unfinished.

The life of Zuckerland herself ended in a Nazi concentration camp during the second world war. A haunting end to the exhibition.


The intense works of Egon Schiele are powerful and unnerving.

I love the elegance in this portrait of a teenage boy


Compared to the compelling, tortured portrait of Schiele himself  painted the same year. I found it quite overwhelming to be so close to such incredibly powerful images. It really was a feeling of direct communication across time and place.

Egon Schiele


I was incredibly moved by Schiele’s poignant sketch of his wife, six months pregnant and dying of Spanish flu. Three days later Schiele himself would also be dead from the epidemic at only 28.



For me it was the women artists I found the most captivating and surprising.

I adore this gentle yet strong nude portrait of Marietta by Broncia Koller



and this self portrait of Teresa Ries


Little known today but once one of Vienna’s most famous artists. A pioneer for female artists who also became an organiser and founding member of the  8 Women Artists of Vienna.

This photo shows Mark Twain sitting for his portrait. An incredibly accomplished piece of  sculpture.


I absolutely loved this exhibition and would highly recommend it. I came away completely inspired so who knows perhaps my work will include portraits in the future. I have created a pinboard of some of my favourites in the meantime, so do have a look.

Hugs, Jessica xx