Monday, September 24, 2012

Schiele, Egon

Two little girls
watercolor and pencil on paper
31 x 40 cm (12.0 x 15.7 in.)
The Albertina, Wien, Austria

Schiele, in his early twenties, tended to gravitate to the familiar. He himself, his beloved sister Gertrude, and his fledgling girlfriends were his most frequent models. He also readily identified with children. Schiele, who described himself as an "eternal child", was in many ways still a boy himself. Certainly his emotional maturity lagged far behind his artistic precocity, making it possible for him to depict puerile mental state that generally elude older artists. The torment of growing up remained very real to him; not only did he still suffer the pangs of puberty, but he found young models far less intimidating than adults. Children had one other great advantage over mature models in Schiele's early, impecunious days: they could be persuaded to pose for spare change, or even for a bit of candy. The streets of Vienna were teeming with young urchins, and Schiele lured them like the Pied Piper.
"There were always two or three smaller or larger girls in Schiele's studio; girls from the neighborhood, from the street, solicited in nearby Schonbrunn Park; some ugly, some attractive, some washed, but also some unwashed. They sat around doing nothing...Well, they slept, recovered from parental beatings, lolled about lazily...their closely cropped or tangled hair, pulled their skirts up or down, tied or untied their shoelaces. And all this they did - if one can call that doing something - because they were left to themselves like animals in comfortable cage, or so they perceived it." (Schile's friend, the artist and writer Paris von Gutersloh)

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Austrian painter and his work is noted for its intensity, was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century and was regarded by many of his contemporaries as the predestined successor to Gustav Klimt, but died before he could fulfill his promise. The twisted body shapes and the expressive line that characterize his paintings and drawings mark the artist as an early exponent of Expressionism.

On 19 October 1918 Edith, his pregnant wife, fell ill with Spanish influenza, then sweeping Europe. On 28 October she died. Schiele, who seems never to have written her a real love-letter, and who in the midst of her illness wrote his mother a very cool letter to say that she would probably not survive, was devastated by the loss. Almost immediately he came down with the same sickness, and died on 31 October, three days after his wife.

When Egon Schiele died in 1918 at the age of only 28 years old, he was seen as being one of the most important artists of his time. During the turmoil of the following decades he was more and more buried in oblivion until he completely disappeared into thin air after being judged as "degenerate art" by Hitler's Nazi regime. When Rudolf Leopold saw works by Egon Schiele at the beginning of the 1950s he immediately recognized their quality, emotionality and technical
bravura could absolutely be compared to the Old Masters. The life of the young eye doctor changed radically. He entirely devoted himself to collecting and trading art. Many Schiele paintings and drawings were on sold on the free market at the time and even quite affordable even though they were not that cheap: a large-sized oil painting pretty much had the same price as a new car. Rudolf Leopold made significant contributions to the international esteem in which he is held today. With 44 oil paintings and around 180 graphic works, the Leopold Museum is the largest and most prominent collection with works of Egon Schiele worldwide.

"All beautiful and noble qualities have been united in me ... I shall be the fruit which will leave eternal vitality behind even after its decay. How great must be your joy, therefore, to have given birth to me." (Egon Schiele)