Over the course of his short life, Austrian artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) blazed a turbulent Expressionist trail. A child prodigy, young rebel, and chronic provocateur, he caused uproar among the establishment with his contorted lines, distorted bodies, and explicit eroticism and continues to startle to this day with his unflinching images of himself and his nude, splayed subjects.
Schiele reveled in stylistic freedom and shock. In the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he swiftly abandoned classical figuration for a distorted and exaggerated physicality that rendered emotional and sexual truth rather than refined beauty ideals. His subjects are elongated, angular, and twisted. Ribs protrude from skeletal forms. Fingers and limbs contort, skin is sickly yellow, and eyes are dark afraid. The body becomes the locus of human drama and anguish. Schiele's only reprieve was the promise of sex. Like no other early 20th-century artist, he laid genitalia bare, bringing some of the most candid renderings of the vagina in Western art history, as well as scenes of masturbation and lesbian sex.
Schiele's life ended with the same drama and emotional turmoil that defined his work, dying of Spanish influenza in 1918 just after his pregnant wife Edith succumbed to the same pandemic. His legacy, despite the brevity of his life, is exceptional. His influence can be traced through the work of countless 20th-century masters, from Francis Bacon and Otto Muehl to Julian Schnabel, David Bowie, and Tracey Emin.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 11 / 2016
- 290 x 395mm