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9 facts that will change your impression of the artist Egon Schiele

Well-known for his provocative paintings and suffering self-portraits, Egon Schiele is still a very controversial figure in the history of art because of his almost pornographic drawings. For your attention are several facts about this man and the artist.
"I do not deny that I have made drawings and watercolors of an erotic nature. But they are always works of art. Are there no artists who have done erotic pictures?" asked Egon Schiele in his diary.

1. Schiele was the youngest student admitted to his class at Vienna's Akademie der bildenden Kunste (Academy of Fine Arts).

When Egon was enrolled to Viennese Academy of Fine Arts, he was only 16 years old. He hasn’t got his diploma because he withdrew from the school three years later, resentful of the conservative methods of teaching. Schiele and a group of like-minded classmates founded the self-styled Neukunstgruppe (New Art Group). After several solo exhibitions he met an art critic Arthur Roessler, who introduced the artist to well-to-do private collectors and art patrons.

2. His first romance was doomed

The first great love of Schiele, known to us, was a teacher’s daughter Margarete Partonek, the girl next door. Although little is known about her, it seems, his feelings for her have not been fully answered. According to The Guardian, Margarete kept six of his love letters as well as his obituary notice. In one of the letters he wrote of offering his "right hand to art", and "both my hands" to "the loveliest girl".
Egon Schiele. The Embrace (Lovers)
The Embrace (Lovers)
1917, 100×170.2 cm

3. Gustav Klimt was his patron

Elder of the Vienna Secession was a mentor of Egon Schiele, despite the fact that the latter had entrenched notoriety. Gustav Klimt (pictured left) introduced the young artist to the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), an association of architects, painters, artisans and merchants, founded by secessionists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. Klimt acquainted Schiele with customers and bought his drawings himself. He also introduced models to Egon. A story with one of them in his time created a sensation…

4. Accused of "abducting and seducing” a minor, Schiele was arrested.

Schiele met his muse Valerie (Wally) Neuzil in 1911. In search of inspiration, they moved to Neulengbach, west of Vienna. By coincidence his studio quickly became an after-school hangout for teenagers. Later, charges of seducing a girl were dropped, but he spent 24 days in prison for the crime against morality made by his sexually explicit drawings. Schiele was deeply traumatized, and after the incident, children rarely appeared in his works.
Egon Schiele. Self-portrait with Physalis
Egon Schiele. Portrait of Wally
  • Schiele, Self-portrait with Physalis
  • Schiele, Portrait of Wally

5. His most expensive work sold at auction was a landscape
The development of the genre from antiquity to the present day: how did religion and the invention of oil painting contribute to the development of the genre in Europe, and why was the Hudson River so important? Read more

According to Sotheby’s, the most expensive work of Egon Schiele at auction is his landscape
The development of the genre from antiquity to the present day: how did religion and the invention of oil painting contribute to the development of the genre in Europe, and why was the Hudson River so important? Read more
painting "Houses with Colorful Laundry (Suburb II)" (Häuser mit bunter Wäsche), oil on canvas, 1914. On sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on June 22, 2011 in London it was sold for almost $40 million. As part of the settlement deal, the painting went under the hammer so that Vienna’s Leopold Museum could reunite Schiele’s self-portrait and a painting of Valerie Neuzil, or "Portrait of Wally" you see above.

6. Four days after his wedding, Schiele was drafted into the army

Schiele saw Edith Harms outside his window in a Viennese suburb of Hietzing. He decided to marry her as she was more socially acceptable than his mistress Wally Neuzil, a model and former prostitute.
Egon Schiele and Edith Harms. Photo: Egon Schiele Art Centrum
Egon Schiele. Lovers

Egon proposed a compromise to Wally Neuzil, handing her a document that stated they would vacation every summer without Edith. Wally refused and they never saw each other again. At the beginning of World War I, in 1915, Edith and Egon got married.

Egon Schiele, "Lovers" (1914)

7. During the war, he painted his works while guarding Russian prisoners.

Schiele’s army service was easy enough, he never saw any front-line fighting. He was able to sketch and paint while guarding Russian prisoners of war and performing other guard duties. By 1917, he completely focused on his artistic career in Vienna. He created many works during this time and participated in the Secession’s 49th exhibition in the capital of Austria.
Egon Schiele. Portrait of a Russian prisoner of war Grigori's Clarisol
  • Egon Schiele's drawing
  • Egon Schiele, poster of the Vienna Secession's 49th exhibition

8. Schiele was not just an artist but also a poet

In April 1918, just before his death, Schiele wrote, "…I reckon every artist should be a poet." His literary works were as bright, unique and expressive as his paintings. A collection of poems by Schiele was published recently in the UK accompanied by the author’s drawings.
Egon Schiele, Self-poartait (1914) and a poem Self-portrait in handwriting (1910)

High vast winds turned my spine to ice
and I was forced to squint.
On a scratchy wall I saw
the entire world
with all its valleys, mountains and lakes,
with all the animals running around
shadows of trees and the patches of sun
reminded me of clouds.
I strode upon the earth
and had no sense of my limbs
I felt so light.

Egon Schiele

9. Schiele died when he was only 28.

In 1918, the Spanish flu spread like wildfire throughout Austria. Local newspapers reported 2,200 deaths in a single week. Schiele’s wife Edith was six months pregnant when she died, and three days later, Egon followed her.
"His laconic, aphoristic way of speaking created, in keeping with the way he looked, the impression of an inner nobility that seemed the more convincing because it was obviously natural and in no way feigned," wrote Arthur Roessler, a friend and a patron of Egon Schiele.
I, Eternal Child

I, eternal child —
I sacrificed myself for others …
who looked and did not see me …

Everything was dear to me —
I wanted to look at the angry people
with loving eyes,
to make their eyes do likewise;
And to the jealous,
give them gifts,
telling them I am worthless.

Egon Schiele
Written by Vlad Maslow on materials by Artnet, the Guardian.
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