On the day we visited the Royal Academy, the Klimt / Schiele show coincided with the closing days of the Oceania exhibition of artefacts from Pacific cultures.
Destitute women, sex-workers, his lover and his wife modelled for Schiele in sexually explicit poses. They stare out at me from the paper, disputing my male gaze. Schiele was jailed for a time, initially arrested for harbouring a runaway teenage girl but actually condemned for allowing access to his erotic drawings. He also drew arresting self images, naked and anguished. His drawings of women seem much more self-exploration than titillation for others. Schiele’s attitudes and actions were steeped in patriarchy, but his erotic art was revolutionary, visibly challenging the restrictive norms of his time and still challenging today. Sex and gender are powerful, at the heart of family, politics and use of resource, and are the bedrock of art. Once North European invaders saw the very different lives of Pacific peoples as primitive, with mixed disgust, lust and romantic wonder. The themes of sex and gender run through the Oceania exhibition but it is hard to guess at the intent and meaning of the original crafters, or the interpretation and feelings of those who first looked at and felt the objects.