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Egon Schiele was a uniquely expressive portrait painter from the early 20th century who took the qualities of his master, Gustav Klimt, and inserted strong touches of expression and innovation.
Specialist in the Portrait Genre
Connection to Gustav Klimt
Klimt and Schiele both produced drawings with blended, intertwined limbs and bodies as well as twisted shapes to make use of their highly expressive approaches. There were standard portraits, but many more that were not. Egon was a creative artist from an early age who wanted to experiment with new ideas rather than follow what had gone before. The early training that he received was too restrictive and he left as a result in order to avoid having his style becoming too mainstream and conservative.
Seated Female Nude with Raised Right Arm, Seated Woman with Bent Knee, Standing Male Nude with Red Loincloth and Umarmung (Embrace) are four of the most famous drawings from Schiele, although many more are discussed elsewhere within this website. There is also a paintings section that includes landscape paintings such as Four Trees and Setting Sun as well as all of his major figurative works, both portraits and self-portraits.
Themes used in his paintings
Prominence of Vienna
The city of Vienna was in a turbulent period at the time, experiencing social problems at around the turn of the century and also being a major part of an empire in clear decline. These problems seemed to herald in some exciting and creative influences which went well beyond just the visual arts and Schiele was ideally placed to ride on this wave of innovation. His initial meeting with Klimt would set off an important relationship which greatily impacted the earlier period of his career.
Early Life and Transition to Artist
By this point he had come a long way indeed, as the son of a station master who had already lost his father to sickness and been left to pursue his career ambitions by himself. The city of Vienna had brought him so much, and although he had his detractors, there were also many who were now backing his progress passionately. It would ultimately be the point at which the Spanish flu reached this city that ultimately marked the artist's card.
His canvases became larger in order to better make use of the way in which he was now working, as well as to really shock and surprise the viewer with a style that was viewed by many as controversial for the time. Ultimately he would push things too far in the eyes of some, leading to his arrest, but today his work is viewed far differently, through the lens of more liberal thinking and is embraced with love by most of those with an interest in early 20th century Expressionist art.
Vienna continues to celebrate the work of Egon Schiele
It is pleasing to see so much of his work within Vienna as this city played an important part in his life and also has an excellent existing connection with the arts, to which this selection of work provides a significant additional boost. The city provided him with most of his early training and also provided significant cultural outlets that could help develop his imagination just as his career started to take off.
Ironically, one of the major challenges to their work in the next few decades would be the rise of extreme politics within the region which was also caused, in part, by the lingering social issues left over from the war itself. Schiele would not be around to see this battle carried out between contemporary artists and the ruling powers, but ultimately it would be the artists who won, as we continue to celebrate their work today.