'He took sex to the point of oblivion': Tracey Emin on her hero Egon Schiele

By Jonathan Jones

His work was once dismissed as porn. But the pain, anger and sexual frustration in Egon Shiele's writhing nudes electrified Tracey Emin's adolescence – and gave her a purpose that has never waned. She talks our writer through his stormiest work

“That's quite rude,” says Tracey Emin as we look through the drawings of Egon Schiele. “She's laying on her elbows with her mouth on her arm, almost like she's got to bite her arm to keep her mouth shut, and she's got her arse in the air and her legs are open. She's got her dress falling down over her breast, her hair's tousled … Having sex to the point of oblivion, so there's no return. That's what that looks like. And that's what makes it really good.”

This is a tale of two artists. One is an Austrian expressionist in Sigmund Freud's Vienna at the start of the 20th century, who managed to shock even its refined erotic sensibilities with the stark sensuality of his images. The other is a teenager in 1970s Margate, whose first encounter with said artist, Schiele, was one of the most inspiring events of her life.

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