Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter and protege of the Austrian symbolist (and lover of the female body), Gustav Klimt. Schiele is most famous for his twisted bodies, hyper sexualized sketches, grotesque, and almost endless self-portraits. He is considered an early expressionist painter who leans toward figurative painting. Figurative art is considered to be drawn from actual objects or persons – therefore it is representational rather than based in imagination. Expressionist painting allows the artist to transform works based solely on emotion and subjective perspectives and distortions – often these works are not in the realm of “the real”. Technically speaking an expressionism painting and a figurative painting are at odds with one another – one aims to be wholly based in “fact” and the other in “feeling”. This dichotomy adds a layer of beautiful confusion to Schiele’s paintings.
Egon Scheile, The Little City II (View from Bohemian Krumlov), 1912-1913, Oil on Canvas (Wikipedia Commons)
Egon Schiele, Fräulein Beer, 1914, Oil on Canvas (Wikipedia Commons)
Early in the artist’s career, while studying with Klimt, he met a woman named Valery (Wally) Neuzil. Some consider this woman to be a mistress of Klimt, however she appeared as a model in Schiele’s works as well. Together, they escaped what they considered “the conservative society” of Vienna to the countryside of Neulengbach. The rent was inexpensive because it was so far from this city (what Brooklyn is the NYC). This allowed Schiele to afford more space for his studio. This home became a gathering place for many delinquents and children in the area – it was also where Schiele painted several youths in questionably pornographic situations (many of whom were considered below the age of consent). Paris von Guetersloh, a young artist who was Schiele’s contemporary, remembered that the establishment was overrun with them:
They slept, recovered from beatings administered by parents, lazily lounged about – something they were not allowed to do at home – combed their hair, pulled their dresses up or down, did up or undid their shoes … like animals in a cage which suits them, they were left to their own devices, or at any rate believed themselves to be.
Egon Schiele, Kauernde