Life in Motion at Tate Liverpool explores the brief but vigorous artistic endeavours of the Austrian painter Egon Schiele and the American photographer Francesca Woodman (daughter of the recently passed American ceramicist, Betty Woodman). Although making work decades apart – on entirely different continents – these two artists are bound by their short lives, tragic deaths, and extensive legacies of work.
Schiele produced an enormous 3,000 drawings and 300 paintings during his life, dying aged 28 in 1918. While Woodman left behind over 800 photographs taken from the age of 14 up until her tragic suicide at 22 in 1981. Respectively, this major exhibition is set to offer a profoundly intimate and personal look at both artists’ accomplishments.
Stylistically, Schiele and Woodman share striking similarities in the obscure, almost performative nature of their mode of self-portraiture. Each artist presents themselves as enigmatic characters – conveying a curious narrative that invites the viewer, briefly, into their worlds.
Schiele depicts himself and his muses with striking, liberal line work and fleshy colour tones that manage to capture action and raw emotion. Woodman, on the other hand, translates careful movement through long exposure photography. She explores what the artist described as “the body’s inner force,” revealing a thoughtfulness to how she positioned herself in space and a wistful approach to her compositions.
Both artists inspect a fluidity in the female body, albeit from different perspectives. Woodman’s resolutions come from a place of innocence, presenting us with a transition that comes with growth; whereas Schiele’s knowledge of feminine shape is informed by sexual encounter. It seems important to be offering this comparison of female representation in 2018, when feminism still challenges the way women are perceived and femininity itself is aptly more fluid.
This retrospective not only allows us to see the minds of two incredibly talented creatives – young artistic flair translated through drawing, painting and photography. It also looks at dialogues below the surface, opening up these incredible bodies of work to contemporary conversations.