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Inspired by Schiele

A protégé of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, is one of the most talented and scandalous artists to come out of the 20th century.


Born in Tulln, Austria in 1890, Schiele had a difficult childhood due to his father’s and sister’s deaths. From an early age he exhibited strange and troubling behaviours, such as an inappropriate amount of affection towards his sister, Gertrude.


Schiele wasn’t particularly academic at school, but did show a great interest and talent in sport and plastic arts. As a result, he was able to convince his reluctant uncle to find him an art tutor, and at just fifteen years old he was taught and guided by artist, Ludwig Karl Strauch. In 1906, his application was quickly accepted by the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, yet due to the puritanism of his tutors he left soon after to establish his own artistic path. This inspired him to create the “Neukunstgruppe” (New Art Group), and associate with the Vienna Secession and its famous founder, Gustav Klimt.   


The two men quickly became friends despite their thirty-year age gap, and Schiele went as far as to use the same models as Klimt before making one of them, Wally Neuzil, his lover.


Despite the attention generated from his beautiful landscapes and sombre versions of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Schiele’s success came from his portraits, self-portraits and female nudes. The artist’s signature style was peculiar, consisting of controversial subject matter and deformed drawings of bodies. Freud’s influence can be seen in his works, where the violent, raw and at times pornographic nature of his work alludes to famous theories about humanity’s flawed psyche.


His debaucherous behaviour and association with prostitutes, inspired his paintings of female masturbation. He would also depict himself in these highly controversial paintings as a deformed, morbid and crazed being.


Schele had many run-ins with the law, and was accused of kidnapping a young girl in 1912. He was then sent to prison for 25 days due to  “public immorality”. Whilst incarcerated, he painted what he could see from his cell, including the sombre lives of his fellow inmates. Upon his release he immediately resumed old habits, painting the subversive “Cardinal and Nun (Caress).” This was a sort of homage to Klimt’s “The Kiss,” but it was a lot more controversial, due to the violation of clerical moral codes through the couple’s steamy embrace.


In the last year of his life, Schiele found immense fame and respect from the Viennese bourgeoisie after painting a portrait of Klimt. Despite the incessant demand for his works, his final drawing remains unfinished: a nude family portrait of himself, his wife and their unborn child. They all met the same fate after contracting Spanish flu. Schiele was just 28 years old.


Although it took nearly half a century for his work to be appreciated, Schiele continues to inspire both established and emerging artists today. Artsper invites you to discover the unique work of artists such as Nathan Chantob, Philippe Pasqua and Rossella Mercedes.

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Our recommendations Egon Schiele, La Mère & la Fille / Mother and Daughter - 1913, Print

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