Egon Schiele

In Pursuit of Realism


Egon Schiele


Schiele, born 1890, was an Austrian painter and a protégé of Gustav Klimt. Schiele was primarily a figurative painter, famed for the intensity and controversial nature of many of his works. His use of the human form and twisted shapes have the early exponent of Expressionism, and his influences are evident in his work. In his early life he was strongly influenced by his teacher Klimt, and there are hints of influences from Art Nouvaue and Kokoschka.

While Schiele had a relatively successful career as an artist in his short life, much of his work was seen as highly controversial. In 1911, when he and his partner moved to his mothers birth place, he was actually driven from the town for supposedly employing the local teenage girls as models. In 1912 he was arrested for seducing a young girl under the age of consent, though eventually those charges where dropped. What he was imprisoned for was his possession of more than a hundred drawing that where seen as pornographic. He was found guilty of having erotic drawings in a place accessible to children, but only spent a further 3 days in prison.


Many of Schiele’s more explicit drawings were done for his own pleasure, though some where sold as pornography to other people. His work has a very abstract style, evident even in his more realistic pieces, which is something I find quite interesting. His work does not try to replicate real life, and even the more erotic poses don’t have the style or tone that tries to be arousing.

I find much of his work, primarily the earlier nudes, quite dark. They tend to show younger, often malnourished girls, in dark tones and colours, which feels more like a comment on the poverty, and attitude towards sexuality that he was surrounded by. Schiele had an unapologetic attitude towards sex and nudity, and I feel it’s this which made him a relevant, and truly talented artist. He died during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, 3 days after his pregnant wife, aged 28.


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