The Work of Egon Schiele

Austrian 20th century master Egon Schiele’s angular works of art left a profound record of the psychology and identity of a society racked by war.  Combining expressionism elements and symbols of Art Nouveau, Schiele’s drawings and paintings are an uncomfortably honest view of the peculiar atmosphere he lived in.  Despite aspirations to create grand allegories, monumental works of art, Scheile’s ambitions were restricted by a shortage of funding and patronage by influential figures unwilling to be seen through his eyes at the time.  His upbringing was humble and his parents had not encouraged their son to pursue a risky artistic career.  An unacademic student whose father died of syphilis in 1904 resulting in the disgrace and destitution of his family, Schiele experienced a turbulent coming of age.  Rebellious and resistant to traditional artistic education within the Academy, Schiele’s unique style earned him a notorious reputation and a formidable following which included Gustav Klimt.  His commissions too provocative or sexually explicit for patrons and his portraits too brutally unflattering to satisfy the egos of his sitters, Schiele was unapologetic in his vision and uncompromising in his unique approach.  Though he craved admiration and recognition, the general public struggled to tolerate his work and way of life and he was never accepted in the communities he tried to settle with, even being jailed for ‘public immorality’ when he allegedly displayed sexually explicit works of art to minors in his studio and for using them as models though these were usually fully clothed.  After a spell in jail provoked by dubious allegations made by a local parent whose daughter sought refuge in Schiele’s home, he accepted that in order to escape persecution he would need to concede, marrying shortly after and never drawing children again.  He soon attracted patrons and his style of work evolved.  Schiele’s much imitated use of line is confident and elegant describing angular and sexualised bodies recoiling, exposing and contorting.  His self portraits are intensely introspective and the depictions of his sitters evolved to become more realistic and highly individual.  His approach to prisoners of war was compassionate and empathic revealing a deep connection to their plight and describing them as equal but broken.  A confirmed pacifist, Schiele’s training during the war disrupted his work greatly and clearly impacted on him mentally as he had a great capacity for sympathy and desire for peace but soon he would be recognised as one of Vienna’s foremost artists after Klimt’s death and finally offering him the recognition and affluence he had craved for so long.   Shielle succumbed to the great flu pandemic that tore through Europe killing his pregnant wife and taking his own shortly after.  By only 28 Schiele had made an indelible impact on European art and left a legacy of artistic integrity, ingenuity and controversy unrivalled by those who followed.

egon schiele russian-prisoner-of-war-grigori-kladjishuli-1916 egon schieleportrait-of-a-man-with-a-floppy-hat-portrait-of-erwin-dominilk-osen-1910 egon schiele 7 egon schiele_loincloth egon schiele6 Egon Schiele-738636 egon schiele4 egon schiele3 Egon-Schiele egon schiele_scornful Woman egon_schiele-1 Egon_Schiele_-_Mime_van_Osen_-_1910 egon-schiele-sitting-woman-1348350312_b egon schieleDouble-Self-Portrait-Egon-Schiele-1915 egon schieleself-portrait-with-arm-twisting-above-head-1910

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