Egon Schiele (June 12, 1890 October 31, 1918) (pronounced shee-leh)
was an Austrian painter, a protege of Gustav Klimt, and a major figurative
painter of the early 20th century. Due to the highly-charged nature of
his drawings and paintings and his premature death, Schiele has come to
epitomise the popular image of the tortured artist.
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), 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 schools 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
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.
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 Ceský 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 1915, Schiele met sisters Edith and Adéle Harms, who lived
with their parents across the street from his studio. They were a middle-class
family; their father was a master locksmith. By April, Schiele and the
more socially acceptable Edith, were engaged, and the faithful Wallie
was coldly dismissed by Schiele. Against her family's wishes, Schiele
and Edith were married in June 1915.
In spite of World War I, Schiele was able to pursue his artistic endeavors.
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 Secessionist's
49th exhibition, held in Vienna in 1918. Schiele had fifty works accepted
for the 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.
During the same year, he also had successful shows in Zürich, Prague,
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.
* Rachel's, an American post-rock group, composed a score titled Music
for Egon Schiele (released in 1996), for a theatrical dance production
by Stephan Mazurek called "Egon Schiele" (presented in May 1995)
based on the life of the artist.
* 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 Rachel's album and reference the life of Egon Schiele, particularly
the last days before he and his wife succumbed to the Spanish flu.
* The Verlaines, a prominent Dunedin Sound band from New Zealand, named
one of their most popular songs, Death and the Maiden, after a painting
by Egon Schiele. It was released in 1983 as a single and later appeared
on the 1987 album Juvenilia.
Egon Schiele. (2007, February 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 09:05, February 2, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Egon_Schiele&oldid=104755099
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