Schiele

Source: Wikipedia

Egon Schiele (June 12, 1890 – October 31, 1918) was an Austrian painter, a protégé of Gustav Klimt, and a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. Schiele’s body of work is noted for the intensity and the large number of self-portraits he produced. The twisted body shapes that characterize Schiele’s paintings and drawings make the artist a notable exponent of Expressionism.

Biography

Education

Egon Schiele was born in Tulln on the Danube. His father, Adolf, worked for the Austrian State Railways as a station master; his mother, Marie, was from Krumau, in Bohemia. As a child, he attended the school run by the Stift Klosterneuburg, where his arts teacher K.L. Strauch recognized and supported Schiele’s artistic talent.

Egon Schiele, Self-portrait, 1912

Egon Schiele, Self-portrait, 1912

When Schiele was 15 years old, his father died of syphilis, and he became a ward of his uncle (his mother’s brother), Leopold Czihaczec, who became distressed by Schiele’s lack of interest in academic studies, yet recognized his passion and talent for art. In 1906 Schiele applied at Kunstgewerbeschule (the School of Arts and Crafts) in Vienna, where Gustav Klimt had once studied. Within his first year there, Schiele was sent, at the insistence of several faculty members, to the more traditional Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna in 1906. There, he studied painting and drawing, but was frustrated by the school’s conservatism. Records show that Adolf Hitler was rejected by the Akademie in 1907; this has led to a misconception that Schiele and Hitler knew each other in Vienna.

Klimt and first exhibitions

In 1907, Schiele sought out Gustav Klimt. Klimt generously mentored younger artists, and he took a particular interest in the gifted young Schiele, buying his drawings, offering to exchange them for some of his own, arranging models for him and introducing him to potential patrons. He also introduced Schiele to the Wiener Werkstätte, the arts and crafts workshop connected with the Secession. In 1908 Schiele had his first exhibition, in Klosterneuburg. Schiele left the Academy in 1909, after completing his third year, and founded the Neukunstgruppe (“New Art Group”) with other dissatisfied students.

Sitzender weiblicher Akt, 1914

Sitzender weiblicher Akt, 1914

Klimt invited Schiele to exhibit some of his work at the 1909 Vienna Kunstschau, where he encountered the work of Edvard Munch, Jan Toorop, and Vincent van Gogh among others. Once free of the constraints of the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore not only the human form, but also human sexuality. At the time, many found the explicitness of his works disturbing.

Style

Egon Scheile is known for being grotesque, erotic, pornographic, and 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 and did landscapes and still lifes.

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. Krumau was the birthplace of Schiele’s mother; today it is 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.

Porträt des Albert Paris von Gütersloh, 1918

Porträt des Albert Paris von Gütersloh, 1918

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 chose to marry the more socially acceptable Edith, but had apparently expected to maintain a relationship with Wally. However, when he explained the situation to Wally, she left him immediately and never saw him again. This abandonment lead him to paint Death and the Maiden, where Wally’s portrait is based on a previous pairing, but Schiele’s is newly struck. (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.

War

World War I now began to shape Schiele’s life and work. Three days after his wedding, Schiele was ordered to report for active service in the army. He was initially stationed in Prague. In the army, Schiele was treated well by officers who respected his artistic talent. He never saw any fighting at the front, and was able to continue painting and sketching while guarding Russian prisoners of war, and doing light guard duties. By 1917, he was back in Vienna, able to focus on his artistic career. His output was prolific, and his work reflected the maturity of an artist in full command of his talents. He was invited to participate in the Secession’s 49th exhibition, held in Vienna in 1918. Schiele had fifty works accepted for this exhibition, and they were displayed in the main hall. He also designed a poster for the exhibition, which was reminiscent of the Last Supper, with a portrait of himself in the place of Christ. The show was a triumphant success, and as a result, prices for Schiele’s drawings increased and he received many portrait commissions.

Mädchen, 1911

Mädchen, 1911

During the same year, he also had successful shows in Zürich, Prague, and Dresden.

Schiele participated in numerous group exhibitions, including those of the Neukunstgruppe in Prague in 1910 and Budapest in 1912; the Sonderbund, Cologne, in 1912; and several Secessionist shows in Munich, beginning in 1911. In 1913, the Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, mounted Schiele’s first solo show. A solo exhibition of his work took place in Paris in 1914.

In the autumn of 1918, the Spanish flu epidemic that claimed more than 20,000,000 lives in Europe reached Vienna. Edith, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on 28 October. Schiele died only three days after his wife. He was 28 years old. During the three days between their deaths, Schiele drew a few sketches of Edith; these were his last works.

Tributes

  • The Frames, an Irish Alternative Rock group, composed the song Santa Maria (released in 2001 on the album For the Birds). The lyrics were inspired by the Rachel’s album and reference the life of Egon Schiele, particularly the last days before he and his wife succumbed to the Spanish flu.
  • Richard Avedon writes about Schiele in his essay on portraiture entitled “Borrowed Dogs.” The essay appears in “Performance & Reality: Essays from Grand Street,” edited by Ben Sonnenberg.
  • The Æon Flux animated series’s visual style is deeply influenced by Schiele’s work.
Advertisements

One Response to “Schiele”

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: