by davideubank on January 20th, 2008
Egon Schiele was a talented and troubled young man,
at age sixteen he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts and by seventeen he was working under the direction of Gustav Klimt.
Klimt encouraged and helped the young artist; he arranged models, introduced him to patrons and bought some of his drawings.
He also introduced Schiele to Wiener Werkstutte, the arts and crafts workshop connected to the Sezession (Secession). Schiele created designs for clothing, shoes and post cards for the workshop. In 1908 he had his first exhibition, in Klosterneuberg and in 1909 he left the Academy and set up his studio and began working on his own.
During this time Schiele’s interest in pubescent children were the dominate subjects of his work especially young girls.
Schiele explored the erotic nature of these children, many who were delinquent; they stayed in his studio, where they could do as they pleased, away from the supervision of their parents. It has been suggested the Schiele had an incestuous relationship with his younger sister Gerti.
Schiele’s obsession with sex and eroticism is evident in his work throughout his career.
He supplied collectors of pornography in Vienna with erotic drawing and paintings, pornography flourished in Vienna during Schiele’s time. The young and erotic models were plentiful and Schiele was obsessed with them.
He was also fascinated with his own appearance and made many self portraits.
He was arrested for having sexual relations with a young girl under the age of consent and jailed.
The charges of seduction and abduction were dropped, but he was found guilty of exhibiting an erotic drawing in public place accessible to children. The Judge burnt one of his drawings in front of him in the public court room.
Schiele met Wally Neuzil a seventeen year old model in 1911; she had modeled for Klimt, the two lived together for awhile.
“Portrait of Wally”, is one of the works in question in the “Schiele Case”, concerning Nazi Loot.
He made many drawings of Wally in fact they are some of his best work. But he later coldly dumped her when he met his wife to be Edith Harms.
He married Edith in spite of her family’s objections.
Four days later he was called to war. Throughout World War One he continued to work and became one of the leading artists in Austria. The war over, Schiele now successful and his pregnant wife moved to a new house. He had shown in the Sezession’s 49thexhibition in 1918 and in spite of the war the show was a success for Schiele. Prices for his work increased. Schiele produced the poster for the exhibition, which can be compared to the last supper, with his own self portrait in the place of Christ.
But his success was short, by October 28th 1918 his pregnant wife Edith died of the Spanish Influenza and Egon was dead by the 31st killed by the same Illness.
More about Schiele online: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/ftptoc/schiele_ext.html
Schiele remains one of my favorite artists.
His life; which few of us would dare live; compelled him to search deep into the erotic nature of his human subjects and himself. Schiele touches those regions most of us fear, he exposes the lust, the animal locked inside every human. His drawings capture the erotic nature of the human form and his color speaks deeply to the subconscious desires of the human sexual being, which he was. Even the subjects themselves were at their peak sexual awakenings of pubescence and Egon recognized this and capitalized on it. He attracted the lost delinquent children to his studio and allowed them to be the erotic creatures they were. And he observed those deep hidden manifestations of eroticism and youth and captured them in his artwork.
Perhaps the break down of society in Europe leading up to and during WWI is a reflection of the decadence we find in Schiele’s work.
With the industrial revolution came great change in the world as well as in the ideas and view points of the art and artists of the time. From the mid 1800s to early 1900s artists changed how we interrupted the new world we found ourselves living in, a world of expanded knowledge and rapid change. From the Symbolists to the Expressionist art was now under going enormous and revolutionary change, unlike any time before. Writers like Baudelaire, Huysmans and Wilde wrote of the decadence and decay of European society of the nineteenth century, the excessive lust of everything came with the industrial revolution.
The innocence and order of European society was lost, they were in a place much like today, where we find ourselves; always consuming always looking for the next thrill, the next whatever.
Schiele’s work is the product of his place and time and the work resonates across the barriers of time and space because it speaks to the depths of the human condition, the ancient and ever present lust and energy of the animal trapped in all civilized creatures, waiting to be released. In viewing Schiele’s work we can safely look into our own being without the fear of exposure. He has taken that step for us, because for most of us we dare not tread where he lived.