The Artist’s Muse

The Artist’s Muse

I nearly forgot to say. Kerry Postle, one of our writers, has written a novel.

‘It’s now finished, and although it may not be the novel I’d intended, it’s been a delight to write. Inspired by a joint Tracey Emin-Egon Schiele exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna 2 years ago, it’s based on a true story.

What follows is the original synopsis, and although I’ve made many changes to the manuscript, the basic story has stayed pretty much the same.

It’s set in the early 20th century in Vienna and has as its ‘heroine’ the artist’s model, Wally Neuzil. Wally was model to Klimt when very young, and at 16 he gave her to Egon Schiele with whom she had a relationship. Her changing fortunes force her to look at herself  and examine the time in which she lives.

Her initial opportunity comes with the death of her father, an event which thrusts her family into poverty, and into the city. The values she’s been brought up with are on trial. Limited opportunities dictate that she  become an artist’s model bringing her face to face with her own prejudices (and so us with ours) towards a certain class of woman considered to be no better than a prostitute. Sexual mores are questioned as is the accepted exploitation of poor young women by an educated class.

Wally is on a journey of self-discovery. Accepting and rejecting then growing. Her role is to highlight her own plight but also that of all women with no voice. Her interactions with educated, middle-class women are channelled through their judgement of what she does to earn money. Emilie Flöge’s treatment of Wally is little better than Klimt’s (she’s his posh totty) and in some ways worse as it constitutes a betrayal. Emilie and her sisters espouse ideals and hopes which Wally foolishly believes to be applicable to all women. She reaches out to them in a spirit of solidarity only to be judged and vilified by them. She experiences a cruel kind of prejudice at their gloved hands and even when all classes of women come together at the end – to help with the war effort in the city, a sense of change (with the future of suffrage) heavy in the air – the social class distinctions still cut in.

Meanwhile Wally develops and illustrates that modelling is a performance art in itself. And she shows us that it is not only the artist who suffers for his art : Wally herself is sacrificed many times over. The raw talent of Egon Schiele cuts Wally up in his work, dissecting and reducing her. Similarly in the years they spend together he drags her to the depths, but they stay together which allows their relationship to deepen. This is down to her. She endures much, standing by him through accusations of sexual deviancy and imprisonment.

As the pair mature Wally dares to hope that they can make a future together and Egon  comes to love her. Yet when they get to know the Harms sisters, who live across the road, the weight of society’s judgement falls down, not upon Egon’s head as the artist, but, on Wally’s head as the model. More disturbing still is that Egon turns against her in hypocritical judgement. He rejects her savagely in favour of the socially acceptable Miss Harms.

But how does it all end? I hope I’ve not revealed too much already.

To get your copy go to

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008254391/the-artists-muse

and to find out more about the paintings featured in The Artist’s Muse and the inspiration behind the novel go to https://theartistsmuseblog.wordpress.com/

If you enjoy reading it half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, then you are going to love it.

Thank you for all your support,

Kerry Postle’

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