Our Artists

Egon Schiele

The Austrian painter, Egon Schiele marked the early 20th century with tormented, brilliant works that often caused a scandal.  He created variations on the themes of death and eroticism in his portraits, self-portraits and nudes, asserting his characteristic, provocative style while expressing a deep malaise and constant inner searching. 


Schiele’s characteristic style: origins and influences

Egon Schiele was born near Vienna on 12 June 1890 and showed an early talent for drawing. He began painting from the age of 15. His father’s death in 1905 tarnished his view of the world and had an undeniable impact on his work.  He left the Vienna Academy of Fine Art in1909: the conservative style of teaching there went against his avant-garde conception of art.

His first paintings were inspired by Impressionism but he was very quickly influenced by the  Viennese Secession. Schiele met Gustav Klimt, who became his model and master, in 1907.

In 1909 he created the Neukunstgruppe (the "New Art Group") with his friends, even though, according to him “art cannot be modern.  It is timeless”. His main activity at the time was portrait painting, a particularly lucrative art.  The painting of his sister in Portrait of Gerti Schiele in 1909 marked a turning point in his stylistic development: the subject was highlighted against a dark background that was monochrome and without ornament.  This style of portrait painting became characteristic of his art.

Tormented works that scandalised

Egon Schiele confirmed his personal style from 1910, dedicating himself mainly to portraits and the human body. The drawing itself is very finely worked, the content sombre, the influence Expressionist; in the style of Klimt, the contrasting, brightly coloured, decorative motifs accentuate the morbidity of the faces (Nu féminin sur tissu à carreaux, (Female nude on check fabric 1911). His paintings had a disturbing and worrying quality: Schiele provoked spectators by tackling the themes of death and eroticism in his paintings, but also that of decomposition with the greenish colours he used.  At the time he lived in Neulenbach with Valérie Neuziel, known as Wally, his model who had a somewhat dubious reputation.

He was arrested in 1912 for his erotic drawings, and his few days in prison left him with a deep feeling of injustice: "To obstruct an artist is a crime". Appalled, his works became more and more provocative, such as Le Cardinal et la Nonne, (The Cardinal and the Nun) (1912). Alongside this work he also painted much more serene pieces under the influence of Hodler: "Herbstbaum" (Autumn Tree) and Lever du Soleil (Sunrise) (1912). 

The self portrait and the nude in Schiele’s work

Schiele was fascinated by the human body and the nude became one of the major aspects of his work. Having studied the expressions of residents in a mental asylum and puppets, his nudes took on a particular quality, with unusual, grotesque poses, disjointed bodies and anxious expressions.  Over the years, the positions became more and more suggestive; whether they were male or female, Schiele’s nudes were generally erotic and even pornographic.

Egon Schiele also continued to develop the art of the self-portrait. He completed almost a hundred; sometimes naked (Akt, Autoportrait, Nude, self-portrait 1910), sometimes with a troubled, wizened face.  The painter mastered the art of self-derision sometimes painting himself with a marked squint, a humorous allusion to his name which meant “to squint” in German. His self-portraits reflected the painter’s permanent inner search.

In 1915 Schiele separated from Wally and, in the same year, he married Edith Harms, thus marking the beginning of a period of calmHis works became less tormented and the bodies less tortured.  His painting La Famille (The Family) (1918) showed this artistic rebirth and he also met with great success during the Viennese Secession exhibition in 1918.

He died from Spanish flu on 31 October 1918, just three days after the death of his wife who was six months pregnant.  He was only 28 years old. 

Useful links

Egon Schiele by Erwin Mitsch: "This monograph presents a detailed analysis of the life and work of the Viennese artist". 

Egon Schiele 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters Seated Young Lady Prints and posters The Artist's Wife Prints and posters Gerti Schiele in a Plaid Garment

Nationality(ies) : Austrian
Born on : 12/06/1890
Died on : 31/10/1918
Profile : Designer, Painter
Artistic current(s) : Art nouveau, Expressionism
Theme(s) covered : Portraits - Characters