The "Enfant Terrible" of Austria: Egon Schiele

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Today's stop on the "Feel Art Again" trip around the world is Austria, with artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Reader Brandon Z. requested a post on Schiele, "the prolific enfant terrible of the early 20th-century" who died at the tender age of 28.

1. Egon Schiele was notorious for his paintings of nude young women, like "Three Girls" (above right). Schiele usually couldn't pay for professional models, so he would paint prostitutes, the young girls who hung out at his house, his wife Edith (above left), or even his sister, Gerti. Gerti posed nude for her brother until she was 16, although she was originally embarrassed to pose nude and would only allow Schiele to paint her from behind.

2. Schiele, after seeking out Gustav Klimt, became a protégé of the famed artist. Klimt acted as a mentor to Schiele, buying his drawings and exchanging drawings with him, finding him models, and introducing him to potential patrons. Klimt's influence on Schiele can be seen in paintings such as "Woman with Black Hat" (above left).

3. In 1912, Schiele was arrested for kidnapping and statutory rape after the thirteen (possibly twelve) year old daughter of a prominent Krumau (Bohemia) family ran away from home and convinced Schiele and his lover to take her to Vienna. When she changed her mind, they returned to Krumau where Schiele was arrested, at which time the police confiscated 100+ "pornographic" drawings from his home. Although most of the charges were eventually dropped, Schiele was convicted of "public immorality." He was sentenced to 3 days in prison (in addition to the 21 he had already served awaiting trial), and the judge burned one of his drawings over an open flame in court.

4. Schiele's colorful life has inspired a play, film, theatrical dance production, and musical score. The play, Tatjana in Color, written by Julia Jordan, tells the story of the events leading to Schiele's arrest from the point of view of Tatjana, the young girl who wanted to run away to Vienna. The 1980 biographical film, Excess & Punishment, explored Schiele's artistic demons. An American band named Rachel's composed the score Music for Egon Schiele for the 1995 theatrical dance production Egon Schiele, which represented Schiele's life.

5. Despite his long-term lover, Valerie "Wally" Neuzil, Schiele married Edith Harms on June 17, 1915, the anniversary of his parents' wedding. Three years later, Edith died of the Spanish flu while 6 months pregnant. Schiele made a few sketches of Edith after her death until he, too, succumbed to the Spanish flu just three days later.

Larger versions of "Woman with Black Hat," "Field of Flowers," and "Three Girls" are available.

Fans should check out the Egon Schiele Virtual Gallery; the Schiele collections from Belvedere and Zeno; and the books Schiele by Reinhard Steiner, Between Ruin and Renewal by Kimberly A. Smith, and Egon Schiele: Life and Work by Jane Kallir.

"Feel Art Again" usually appears three times a week. Looking for a particular artist? Visit our archive for a complete listing of all 250+ artists that have been featured. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.

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