Drawings of Egon Schiele are brutal in their honesty. There is blood, there is sweat, there are tears pouring out of them. And there is fire his works violently spurt out onto a viewer. He once said that ‘bodies have their own light, which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from the outside’. Egon’s life burnt out quickly; he died of Spanish flu at the age of 28.
Schiele’s short life is in itself a sequence of misery, poverty, lethal illness, war and all other bad things one can imagine. However, on the other side, he has been appreciated for his draughtsmanship by one person that mattered the most. Having for mentor Gustav Klimt meant everything for the young artist.
Imagine 17-years old student being immediately recognised by then well established and the most sought-after Vienna artist. Klimt introduced Egon to cultural avant-garde of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and invited him to joint exhibitions of Secession movement. He was also very eager to buy Schiele art prints or exchange them for his own.
This bond between the two artists would never be broken. Even after Klimt’s death, Egon sneaked into the morgue to draw for the last time his master’s lifeless body. Klimt has been given Schiele recognition and – to some degree – success among wealthy patrons.
Very Viennese obssessions
At the turn of the 20th century, the Austro-Hungarian capital went through enormous changes. In just fifty years its population quadrupled from 500,000 inhabitants in 1850 to over two million in 1900. Excluding the city centre full of newly built opera buildings and industrialist’s townhouses, Vienna was not a nice place to live. People squashed in slums were impoverished, overworked and in bad health. The death rate has been skyrocketing.
They were Schiele’s neighbours and… natural models. Many of them were also his lovers. Yes, sex was a universal diversion back then and young handsome Egon had a lot of it. Actually, the whole of Vienna was obsessed with sex. Sigmund Freud was there and his ideas of human sexuality took the city’s cultural elite by storm. Schiele wasn’t any different – both death and sex are overwhelmingly present in his art.
Questions to answer
However, there are some disturbing undertones in Schiele’s life we have to talk about. During his short lifetime, he was suspected of incestuous inclinations towards own little sister, accused of kidnapping and statutory rape of a minor (though charges were dropped) and imprisoned for exposing children to pornographic materials as his art was considered by the court.
Apparently, Schiele’s hyper-sexual depictions of prepubescent girls and teenage prostitutes provoke even us, contemporaries. More and more often our art world is keen to expose the problematic context of his sexual misconduct and abuse allegations against him.
On the other hand, some could argue that interfering present political correctness with matters that happened over a hundred years ago is just inappropriate. Especially when it applies to fine art and the legacy of extraordinary artists. This campaign for 2018 exhibition in the Leopold Museum in Vienna tells a different story (#ToArtItsFreedom).
Schiele’s art prints
Deciding that Schiele’s giclee prints are appropriate for wall art at your home displays its owners’ courage, independence and sophistication. You are not afraid to provoke in public (flashmob, anyone?) as well as you’re most likely eager to drop your clothes at home and make a dinner completely naked.
Please, be brave.
Schiele’s framed art prints are worth it.