Albertina Museum in Vienna, this season, presents a major exhibition of 160 of Schiele’s most magnificent gouaches and drawings, as a warm-up for the series of events for the upcoming commemorative year of 2018; the year marking the 100 years since the artist’s death. Schiele is one of those artists that provoke intense feelings to his admirers and this is the reason for the global popularity of his work; needless to say that if you find yourself in Vienna you should not miss this spectacle. To get you prepare for your visit, here are 6 interesting stories about Egon Schiele and his art!
Left: Anton Josef Trcka, Egon Schiele, 1914. Bromoil print on cardboard. Albertina, Vienna. Right: Egon Schiele, The painter Max Oppenheimer, 1910. Black chalk, India ink, watercolour on brown wrapping paper. Albertina, Vienna.
1 - Egon Schiele was born in 1890 in Tulln an der Donau, a town north of Vienna. A museum dedicated to the artist was opened in 1990, marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. The museum occupies the former jail building where Egon spent 24 days, in 1912, after being charged with seducing an underage girl! The police based the allegations on several drawings found in his studio, which were considered pornographic. Charges of seduction were eventually dropped but he was found guilty of exposing children to pornographic images.
Left: Egon Schiele, Seated Couple, 1915. Pencil, brush and watercolor © Albertina, Vienna. Right: Egon Schiele, Two Girlfriends, 1915. Pencil, watercolor and gouache on paper © Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest.
2 - Schiele conducted a passionate affair with Wally Neuzil, in 1911, when he was 21 and she was 17. Wally, formerly a model for Klimt and possibly one of his countless flings, became a source of endless inspiration for the artist and she posed for some of his most powerful portraits. Nevertheless, in 1914, Schiele proposed to Edith Harms, a middle-class, Protestant girl, as a more suitable choice for marriage than his adventurous mistress! His idea to maintain a relationship with Wally after the marriage outraged the temperamental young woman who immediately abandoned him! Wally and Egon never saw each other ever again!
Egon Schiele, Nude self-portrait, 1916. Pencil, opaque colour © Albertina, Vienna
3 - Like most of the young artists of his time, he idolized Gustav Klimt! Eventually they met and Klimt took an interest in Schiele’s work, introducing him to wealthy patrons and exhibition organizers. Schiele’s bold expressionistic style soon became popular in Vienna’s artistic circles although not everyone was an admirer: Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph once described one of his Schiele’s nudes as hideous!
Left: Egon Schiele, Seated Female Nude, Elbows Resting on Right Knee, 1914. Pencil, watercolour, on Japanese vellum. Albertina Vienna. Right: Egon Schiele, Black-haired nude girl, standing, 1910. Pencil, watercolour and white heightening on wrapping paper. Albertina, Vienna.
4 - Schiele met his tragic death at only 28, in 1918. He died of the Spanish flu after seeing his wife Edith, six months pregnant at the time, succumbing to the same illness, three days prior to his own death.
Egon Schiele, Female couple, 1915. Opaque colour, pencil © Albertina, Vienna
5 - Rudolf Leopold (1925-2010), an ophthalmologist from Vienna was largely responsible for Schiele’s rediscovery; in the years following WWII, Leopold started buying every artwork by the artist he could find until he came to possess the largest collection of Schiele's works. His 1972 catalogue raisonné of Schiele’s oeuvre sparked an international interest in the artist. Dr Leopold’s collection is the basis of the Leopold Museum in Vienna, the largest holder of Schiele-art in the world.
Left: Egon Schiele, Self-portrait pulling down an eyelid, 1910. Chalk, brush, watercolour, opaque colour on brown wrapping paper © Albertina, Vienna. Right: Egon Schiele, Nude Self-Portrait, Grimacing, 1910. Pencil, coal, brush, opaque colour with protein-based binder and white heightening on wrapping paper © Albertina, Vienna
6 - In June 2011, Häuser mit bunter Wäsche (Vorstadt II), a townscape by Schiele was auctioned at Sotheby's, London and was bought, anonymously, for an astonishing 39.8 million dollars; the highest price for a Schiele-work ever. Another work by Egon Schiele, Reclining Woman watercolor, holds the world record for the most expensive work of art ever to be sold at an online action (2.5 million dollars)!
Left: Egon Schiele, Nude self-portrait, 1910. Black chalk, brush, watercolour, opaque colour, opaque white on brown wrapping paper. Albertina, Vienna. Right: Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Peacock Waistcoat, 1911. Gouache, watercolor, and black crayon on paper, mounted on board. Ernst Ploil, Vienna.