Egon Schiele  

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"... series of self-portraits of a kind never seen before. Whether the figure is clothed or nude, Schiele always presents the face as racked by distressing emotions, and the asymmetrical design heightens the sense of disturbance. A small drawing of himself in a sketchbook (Plate 259) is less extreme, but the startled grimace is frozen into a mask-like rigidity, and the hair seems to stand on end. When the young Rembrandt pulled faces at himself in the mirror, it was to increase ..." --From the Sketchbooks of the Great Artists, Claude Marks

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Egon Schiele (June 12 1890October 31 1918) (pronounced approximately SHEE-luh) was an Austrian painter, a protege of Gustav Klimt, and a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. Due to the erotic nature of his drawings and paintings (he was the first to be convicted for depicting female genitalia) and his premature death, Schiele has come to epitomise the popular image of the tortured artist.

Contents

Style

In his early years, Schiele was strongly influenced by Klimt and Kokoschka. Although imitations of their styles, particularly with the former, are noticeably visible in Schiele's first works, he soon evolved into his own distinctive style.

Schiele's earliest works between 1907 and 1909 contain strong similarities with those of Klimt, as well as influences from Art Nouveau. In 1910, Schiele began experimenting with nudes and within a year a definitive style featuring emaciated, sickly-coloured figures, often with strong sexual overtones. Within this year Schiele also painted and drew many children.

Progressively, Schiele's work grew more complex and thematic, and after his imprisonment in 1912 he dealt with themes such as death and rebirth, although female nudes remained his main output. During the war Schiele's paintings became larger and more detailed, when he had the time to produce them. His military service however gave him limited time, and much of his output consisted of linear drawings of scenery and military officers. Around this time Schiele also began experimenting with the theme of motherhood and family. His wife Edith was the model for most of his female figures, but during the war due to circumstance, many of his sitters were male. Since 1915, Schiele's female nudes had become fuller in figure, but many were deliberately illustrated with a lifeless doll-like appearance. Towards the end of his life, Schiele drew many natural and architectural subjects. His last few drawings consisted of female nudes, some in masturbatory poses.

Some view Schiele's work as being grotesque, erotic, pornographic, or disturbing, focusing on sex, death, and discovery. He focused on portraits of others as well as himself. In his later years, while he still worked often with nudes, they were done in a more realist fashion. He also painted tributes to Van Gogh's Sunflowers as well as landscapes and still lifes.

Legacy

Schiele has been the subject of a biographical film, Excess & Punishment (aka Egon Schiele Exzess und Bestrafung), a 1980 film originating in Germany with a European cast that explores Schiele's artistic demons leading up to his early death. The film is directed by Herbert Vesely and stars Mathieu Carriere as Egon Schiele with Jane Birkin as his early artistic muse and Christine Kaufman as his wife and Kristina Van Eyck as her sister.

Controversy

In 1911, Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Valerie (Wally) Neuzil, who lived with him in Vienna and served as model for some of his most striking paintings. Very little is known of her, except that she had previously modelled for Gustav Klimt and might have been one of his mistresses. Schiele and Wally wanted to escape what they perceived as the claustrophobic Viennese milieu, and went to the small town of Český Krumlov (Krumau) in southern Bohemia (the place where Schiele's mother was born, and nowadays the site of a museum dedicated to Schiele). Despite Schiele's family connections in Krumau, he and his lover were driven out of the town by the residents, who strongly disapproved of their lifestyle, including his alleged employment of the town's teenage girls as models.

Together they moved to Neulengbach, 35 km west of Vienna, seeking inspirational surroundings and an inexpensive studio in which to work. As it was in the capital, Schiele's studio became a gathering place for Neulengbach's delinquent children. Schiele's way of life aroused much animosity among the town's inhabitants, and in April 1912 he was arrested for seducing a young girl below the age of consent.

When they came to his studio to place him under arrest, the police seized more than a hundred drawings which they considered pornographic. Schiele was imprisoned while awaiting his trial. When his case was brought before a judge, the charges of seduction and abduction were dropped, but the artist was found guilty of exhibiting erotic drawings in a place accessible to children. In court, the judge burned one of the offending drawings over a candle flame. The twenty-one days he had already spent in custody were taken into account, and he was sentenced to only three days' imprisonment. While in prison, Schiele created a series of 12 paintings depicting the difficulties & discomfort of being locked in a jail-cell.

In 1914, Schiele glimpsed the sisters Edith and Adéle Harms, who lived with their parents across the street from his studio in the Viennese suburb of Hietzing, 101 Hietzinger Hauptstrasse. They were a middle-class family and Protestant by faith; their father was a master locksmith. In 1915, Schiele and the more socially acceptable Edith were engaged, and the faithful Wally seems to have been abruptly dropped by Schiele. (In February 1915, Schiele wrote a note to his friend Arthur Roessler stating: "I intend to get married, advantageously, perhaps not to Wally.") Despite some opposition from the Harms family, Schiele and Edith were married on June 17 1915, the anniversary of the wedding of Schiele's parents.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Egon Schiele" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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