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LUGANO – In its exhibition of paintings by Egon Schiele, the Lugano Museum of Modern Art gives us a view of Vienna at the end of the 19th century, between modernism and decadentism. After exhibitions devoted to Modigliani, Munch, Chagall and Kirchner, the art of the great Austrian master, who died in 1918 at only 28, will be on show at Villa Malpensata from 16 March to 29 June, with forty oils and as many sketches, watercolours and gouaches. The spotlight is not only directed at Schiele’s oil paintings, but also at his works on paper, testifying to the fact that he is still regarded as one of the greatest illustrators of all time. The works on display will of course include some of Schiele’s nudes, which when they were first shown were considered “pornographic”, and resulted in his career being overshadowed with scandal. The fact that many of the models were under-age girls may have been questionable, but undeniably produced great art. It was in this way that Schiele led Expressionism into new directions, taking to extremer limits the moderate eroticism of his friend Klimt. For the first time raw sex is the subject matter of painting. The nude: thin and exhausted, in the extreme.

The Villa Malpensata exhibition leads the visitor over a chronological route, with some rooms devoted to particular themes, so that the evolution of the art of Schiele is seen, from works belonging to his period at the Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna (1906-1909) to his first period of stylistic emancipation (1909-1910), from the Krumau and Neulengbach period (1911-1912) to the rich and multi-faceted production of his return to Vienna, five years before his death from Spanish ‘flu.

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