Egon Schiele: Between Art Nouveau and Viennese Modernism

Egon Schiele: Between Art Nouveau and Viennese Modernism



‘No erotic work of art is filth if it is artistically significant; it is only turned into filth through the beholder if he is filthy.’


Egon Schiele, an Austrian painter (born 12th of July 1890) whose artworks aroused both a lot of controversy and interests at the same time. He was accused of spreading pornography and seducing underage models, while his paintings show the coexistence of life and death, being a combination of eroticism and drama, lust and suffering. After all, Schiele was a brilliant draftsman and painter, one of those artists whose works evoke strong, often contradictory feelings in the recipient, and never remain indifferent to him.

Despite living only 28 years he developed his own individual and unique style, which in fact grown based on Gustav Klimt (who was his artistic protagonist) and Viennese secession. 


Early Life

Egon Schiele is one of the main expressionism representative. In 1906-1909 based in Viennese art academy where (in 1907) he met Gustav Klimt, who got significant impact on young artist and his future career. While being a student of Viennese art academy together with a group of students dissatisfied with the conservative profile of the school, created protest against it, unfortunately it didn’t met with school director’s approval which lead him to drop off the school in 1909 and start his own artistic career. In spite of his mother will he rented atelier in Vienna and start his independent career.


After quitting university he got involved in romantic relationship with seventeen years old Wally Neuzil (one of Klimt’s model and lover) and fully scarified to his own unique art style. He focused on themes and styles for which no-one was ready for: provocative erotic acts and portraits which became the hallmark of his artwork.




Style of Schiele is characterised by a sharp angular drawing, strong line as well as flat forms. Whats also worth mentioning, is his intense color and characteristic deformation of model’s bodies portrayed by the artist which make the recipient feel their suffering, anxiety, drama and lack of fulfillments.

His individual style shocked the audience by the way of presenting human body, while at the same time it delights the eye of observer with its painting techniques and expressionist way of presenting the subject.

Despite the fact his brave works were appreciated in the artistic community and shown at many exhibitions, the painter's works could not find their buyers.

Obsessed with sexuality, Schiele studied human bodies, not afraid to show the most intimate areas. For the purposes of his acts, he most often used a special, mixed technique. In one work, he drew on paper and at the same time painted with watercolours, pencils, charcoal, and additionally using gouache.



Narcissus or provocateur?


Equally to his artistic genius he also felt strongly about his male attractiveness. With his gloomy face, wild look and petite, fragile and emaciated figure, he was surprisingly self-confident, some can even even say arrogant, but that was exactly what made women both attracted and willing to pose for him. Interest of the opposite sex fueled his narcissism, which manifested itself through an obsessive vivisection of his own body and resulted in numerous self-portraits.

The painter's images were enriched by his personal, speculative symbolism - for example, his hands, intertwined in pantomimic gestures were always in the foreground. Apparently, all models and models of Schiele in his paintings and drawings have hands that are portraits of the painter himself.

Looking at the artist's self-portraits, it is impossible to resist the impression that they illustrate sadness, loneliness, and sometimes overwhelming pain or suffering.


Even though Schiele realised that his works were both too obscene and vulgar he was not afraid of the increasing accusations of spreading pornography and decided to focused on the acts.








 Vulgar acts or unique art?

Images of the human body (or bodies tangled in an embrace or act of copulation) began to be - next to portraits - the main theme of the artist's work.


Naked, in strange poses, showing the details of anatomy, models, friends as well as prostitutes posed for his work.


Whats important to point out is that except from obscure image they also express violent emotions (stains of color accentuate anatomical details or an element of clothing such as stockings - a specific fetish of the artist), similarly, the self-portraits show the drama of existence and the basic contradiction that is inherent in human fate - the coexistence of life and death.


In his analysis of corporeality, Egon crossed other boundaries - he drew not only stretched or detached models, accentuating their vaginas or vaginas with color, but also masturbating men, female and male nudes, as well as the tangled bodies of female and male-male couples.

The bodies shown by Schiele are often seen from an unusual point of view, from the back, side or above. When drawing, Egon often used a ladder to look at models from above.


Unexpected end


Schiele was a controversial figure and misunderstood throughout his short life. Despite of his unique art style and unusual drawing skills his art was underestimated by the audience most likely because of controversial themes.

After Work War I experience which he went through and which also got an impact on his art work, the artist (who was about to become a father that time) died in 1918 as a result of the Spanish epidemic that prevailed at that time.

He left after himself about three hundred and thirty oil paintings and more than three thousand works on paper. Which didn’t lost their relevance after all the years which passed after painter’s death and are still both shocking and delightful for viewers eyes.







Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing