Egon Schiele 1890-1918 BACK

Austrian painter and graphic artist; with Klimt, who influenced him, and Kokoschka, one of the great Expressionist artists of early 20th-century Vienna. Schiele's most powerful work is in his male and female nudes in pencil, gouache, and watercolour, the figures express in their postures emotions from despair to passion - and the female nudes are often unashamedly erotic. He was once arrested for exhibiting pornographic works. Schiele was primarily a draughtsman, and the angularities of his line and its nervous precision pervade all his work. In 1918 he died from Spanish influenza. His first real success came in the last year of his life, but full recognition was not accorded his work until the 1950's.

An excerpt from Schiele by Reinhard Steiner:
In Schiele's visionary and symbolic works, the mother pictures occupy a special position. They are as inaccessible to ready classification in terms of traditional iconography as the self-portraits and the "Nietz- schean" motifs. And without a knowledge of the specific problems in Schiele's relation with his own mother we will find them forever an enigma.

In his first venture upon this territory, the 1908 Mother and Child , we see Schiele at work on a conventional theme. Yet even here the interpretation has a personal slant. Schiele may have been influenced by a 1903 painting by Elena Luksch-Makovsky, a self-portrait together with her son Peter. Luksch-Makovsky availed herself of the time-honoured iconography of the Virgin, thus transposing her own mother-son situation to a more general, higher level; Schiele, however, dealt subjectively with the theme. Perhaps unconsciously, he used the conventional theme as a pretext to make a hierarchical distinction between the roles of mother and child. The woman, whose exact identity remains unspecified- is wrapped in a dark cloak and hallowed by a weak aura. Her eyes glow magically. In her lap she is holding a child who, in contrast to the mother, is fully lit and makes a far more solid impression - not in a simplistic, realistic sense, but in the sense that an apparition of light has been given solid form, in contrast with which the mother remains a dark force with the function of giving birth to light. Subsequent comments by Schiele leave the possibility open that as early as puberty the young Egon saw himself as a kind of creature of light, and his mother as no more than an embodiment of natural forces. It was a not uncommon view, one which had been given a pseudo-philosophical legitimacy by Otto Weininger's Sex and Character (1903); shortly afterwards it was to become an open conflict between Schiele and his mother.

After some initial hesitation, Schiele's mother had actively supported his wish to attend the Vienna Academy. His guardian Leopold Czihaczek would have preferred to see Egon pursue a "respectable" trade in the railways, and Schiele's mother no doubt had her battles to fight in order to guarantee her son's finances and a roof over his head during his student days. Nevertheless, Schiele could hardly be called a grateful son. Obsessed with the thought of his artistic vocation, he took it for granted that his mother would make sacrifices for him, especially when his father's death left him head of the family. Arthur Roessler, in his memoir of Schiele, conveys the impression that the artist's mother was capable of scarcely credible mental cruelty, and pushed her son to the brink of a deep abyss of desperation. In Roessler's version, which is doubtless subjective and arguably distorted, Schiele complains of his mother in these terms: "I cannot grasp why on earth my mother should treat me so very differently from the way I think I might expect and indeed demand! If it were only someone else! But one's own mother, of all people! It is unutterably sad! And also a terrible burden! - I simply cannot understand that such a thing is possible. It is contrary to nature.

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Image List

Portrait of Eduard Kosmack, 1910

Artist's Room in Neulengbach, 1911

Agony, 1912

Standing Male Nude with Red Loincloth, 1914

Double Self-Portrait, 1915

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