Schiele, Egon

TIMELINE: Expressionism
Austrian expressionist artist Egon Leo Adolf Schiele, b. June 12, 1890, d. Oct. 31, 1918, was at odds with art critics and society for most of his brief life. Even more than Gustav Klimt, Schiele made eroticism one of his major themes and was briefly imprisoned for obscenity in 1912. His treatment of the nude figure suggests a lonely, tormented spirit haunted rather than fulfilled by sexuality. At first strongly influenced by Klimt, whom he met in 1907, Schiele soon achieved an independent anticlassical style wherein his jagged lines arose more from psychological and spiritual feeling than from aesthetic considerations. He painted a number of outstanding portraits, such as that of his father-in-law, Johann Harms (1916; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City), and a series of unflinching and disquieting self-portraits. Late works such as The Family (1918; Oesterreichische Galerie, Vienna) reveal a newfound sense of security.

Austrian Expressionism

The Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918) died when he was only 28 and we do not really know whether he would have developed from the self-pitying adolescent angst that was the main theme of his work. Self-Portrait (1910; 110 x 35.5 cm (43 x 14 1/4 in)), however, is a most moving theme in itself: a pathetic and yet powerful exposure of Schiele's vulnerability. He is mere skin and bone, not yet fully there as a person. He has outlined his body with a glowing line of white to indicate to us both his sense of imprisonment and his limitations: notice how his arm disappears almost at the elbow-- yet paradoxically it also suggests growth and potential. He is an unhappy, scrawny youth, the wild and exaggerated expanse of pubic hair perhaps indicating the center of his unhappiness. It may seem too individualistic a view, yet in his hysterical way he is expressing the fears and doubts of many young people. He is wonderful, unsettling, and strangely innocent.

(thanks to Alexis Huxley)

18 Sep 1995, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info

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