Monday, July 15, 2013

Schiele, Egon

The Lovers, Self-Portrait with Wally
gouache and pencil on paper
47.4 × 30.5 cm
private collection

Wally was born in 1894 in the south of Vienna. She was the daughter of a day laborer and a Bohemian schoolteacher who died young - an event which forced the family to move to the capitol, where Wally’s fateful initial encounter with Schiele took place around 1911. Over the next few years, Wally was to become the lover, muse and model of the artist, who was four years her senior, and she was also to care for him with no small affection. When Schiele was taken into investigative custody in April 1912, she brought him painting supplies and an orange which, as Schiele noted in his diary, represented his “sole light” during these dark days.The main charge which he faced - abduction of a minor - proved groundless, but the court even so proceeded to convict him of the “distribution of indecent drawings.” Schiele was to spend a total of 24 days in prison, during which he painted several sketches - including of the oranges.

In the 1912 portrait, Wally seems surrounded by an aura of melancholy or sadness; it is as if she already foresaw the end of her relationship with Schiele.
In June 1915 Schiele married Edith Harms, the daughter of a master locksmith who lived nearby, and Harms quite understandably demanded that Schiele end his relationship with Wally. It is said that in their final conversation, held at a Viennese coffeehouse, Schiele suggested to Wally that they take a vacation together at least once a year. This was inacceptable to both women. Wally thereafter attempted a fresh start at life, beginning training as a nurse. She then left Vienna in 1917 to work in Dalmatia, where she died of scarlet fever on 25 December of the same year. After their separation, Schiele never saw her again.

"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)

Egon Schiele (1890 - 1918), Austrian painter and his work is noted for its intensity, was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. He was strongly influenced by the Jugendstil movement, the German Art Nouveau. He was regarded by many of his contemporaries as the predestined successor to Gustav Klimt, but died before he could fulfill his promise. The linearity and subtlety of Schiele’s work owe much to Klimt’s decorative elegance. Schiele, however, emphasized expression over decoration, heightening the emotive power of line with a feverish tension. 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, a young eye doctor, 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 Leopold 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.  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.