Egon Schiele

Painter of bony white women and possible child rapist
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Rivaat Zarlif

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Trivium Art History

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Egon Schiele painted a lot of boney and pale white women in scandalously naked positions and that got him into hot water.

Not only was Austria horribly square at the time, but his women were mostly girls. He picked up the young girl thing from his mentor Gustav Klimt, who painted the lush and golden masterpiece "The Kiss" and had his own troubles with fellow Austrians for excessive eroticism of too-young women. Schiele ran off with his master's former model-mistress of 17, Walburga (Wally) Neuzil. He wasn't much older himself, so no problem...yet. But he was then was run out of town (Český Krumlov, Czech Republic), for abducting or, as the more polite art catalogues suggest, 'seducing' a young girl, probably around 14. Nevertheless, Schiele painted the town itself with affection, and unlike his girls, in warm, vivid colors.

Schiele had a weak heart but was nothing if not determined. Forced into the uncomfortable situation of an all-male camp by the Habsburg Empire’s army in World War I, Schiele sketched and painted the Russian prisoners of war he was guarding. These works are not that well known and are significantly less erotic. As the head of camp supplies on account of his great handwriting, he was well-fed and somehow, mid-war, managed to show his work in Zürich, Prague and Dresden.

At 28, with the war over and a respectable wife firmly in place, Austria was at his feet. Like so many other young men, success went to his head. Vienna held a mega-art exhibition and selected 50 of his works for the main hall. Schiele returned the favor by designing the official exhibition poster, and painted the Last Supper with himself in the place of Christ. Ego couldn't save Egon though, when not long after the exhibition the Spanish flu pandemic got him and his wife, along with 20 million others.

 

 

 

Here is what Trivium says about Egon Schiele

The Viennese Expressionist Egon Schiele had two urgent interests: himself and his sexual fantasies. Out of such limited preoccupations and by means of a preternatural gift for drawing and graphic design, he created artworks that still burn with narcissistic yearning, erotic desire, bohemian dissent and existential anxiety.

The brevity of Schiele's life adds to the popular fantasy of the outlaw who lived fast and died young. His career lasted only about eight years, from around 1910, when at age 20 he suddenly found his own vision, until his sudden death by flu in the pandemic of 1918. He was not neglected during that time, however. As a student, one of his mentors was Gustav Klimt, the dean of Viennese Modernism, and as a young professional he was included in important group shows in Vienna and elsewhere in Europe. His drawings sold well to discerning collectors, and a solo show at the Vienna Secession just months before he died was a critical and financial success. Moreover, he was a dandy with a taste for well-made American shoes and a keen awareness of the cut of his silhouette, as photographs of him in the exhibition prove. So the myth of Schiele as a sacrificial outcast who died to rid the world of its moral hypocrisy does not tell the whole story.


Learn more about Egon Schiele and other artists at Trivium Art History

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