The Aids Memorial

Critics, Art : Irresistibly drawn

Par Laura Cumming - 5 mn

Fierce Schiele and graceful Klimt share the spotlight in this compelling Viennese double bill

Klimt/Schiele: Drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna
Royal Academy, London W1;
until 3 Feb

Egon Schiele drew Gustav Klimt many times in life, but also in death. Three drawings exist of Klimt in the morgue, his handsome face deformed by a massive stroke at the age of 55 . Not many months later, Schiele himself was carried off by Spanish fl u in the space of three devastating days. He was 28. Both men died in Vienna in the year 1918.

Death steals like a cold breath through the Royal Academy’s centennial commemoration of their art. It is there in the gaunt faces of Klimt’s old women and his syphilitic femme fatales. It is there in the emaciated bodies of Schiele’s teenage prostitutes, prematurely aged, and in the bony fingers that clutch at the bare ribs of his female nudes. It is the look of an era, of a society cursed by decadence and poverty, hunger, disease and war. But it is als...