Schiele painted the portrait of his wife not as a standard muse, but as a rather timid and wary young girl, dressed in the striped frock she had made from curtain fabric to wear at her wedding. In Edith as Muse, Puck Verkade explores the dividing lines between history, imagination and truth. She herself appears as a contemporary personification of Edith to take visitors on a unique tour of various installations dotted around the museum and composed of documents, videos and objects. In this exciting ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, featuring three installations, tours and interactive round table discussions, Verkade gets right under the skin of Schiele’s young wife.
Egon Schiele was the ‘enfant terrible’ of the Viennese avant-garde. His Expressionist works on themes like budding sexuality, death and decay scandalised early 20th-century Vienna. From 1915, when he married Edith and painted this portrait of her, his work changed, losing its distinctive jaggedness of line and becoming softer and smoother. The tragedy of the portrait lies in the fact that the couple were both to die in the Spanish flu pandemic just three years later.
In Edith as Muse, Puck Verkade challenges the visitor to engage with the painting in various ways. Central to the project is the search for identity, a theme that preoccupied Egon Schiele throughout his career. ‘Edith’ herself may appear – not dressed in a frock made of curtain fabric, as in 1915, but clad in a present-day interpretation of the outfit made by Hague fashion designer Sara Vrugt – to take the visitor on a unique tour of the Gemeentemuseum, pausing to consider a number of installations composed of documents, videos and objects.
The tours are in Dutch only and will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. on the following Friday and Saturday afternoons: 19, 20, 26 and 27 April, and 3, 4, 10 and 11 May. No reservations will be accepted for them.
Viennese coffee house
Fact and fiction blend together not only during the tours, but also in the round table discussions that ‘Edith’ holds with the help of Edwin Becker (Head of Exhibitions at the Van Gogh Museum and an expert on Viennese art). In Schiele’s day, the coffee houses of Vienna were an institution: the place where the city’s musicians, philosophers and artists came together to exchange ideas. By participating in the interactive round table discussions in the museum, you can get an authentic taste of the coffee house culture of the period. Schiele’s contemporaries are the starting point for an art-historical sketch of that world, transposed to the present. Feel like one of them as you join in the discussion about life and art!
The round table discussions are in Dutch only and scheduled for 2 to 3.15 p.m. on the following Saturday afternoons: 21 and 28 April, and 5 and 12 May. Reservations for the round table discussions can be made via firstname.lastname@example.org
Edith as Muse is not confined within the four walls of the museum: Puck has created a Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/EdithSchiele.Gemeentemuseum) for Edith, which provides a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the entire project.
Puck Verkade ( www.puckverkade.com) graduated from The Hague’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KABK) in 2011. Her graduation piece, the video installation Any Day Now, won her a place on the Stroom talent development programme and a nomination for the Young Blood Award. Last year she was runner-up in AVRO TV programme ‘De Nieuwe Rembrandt’. Her work consists chiefly of video installations, performances and interactive projects examining social structures and social issues.
Edith Schiele Year
The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag has proclaimed 2013 ‘Edith Schiele Year’: in addition to the Puck Verkade project, there will be a book about Edith, written by Harriët van Reek for the museum’s youngest visitors, and a special children’s exhibition in June.