Egon Schiele’s Famous Artworks You should Know

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Egon Leo Adolf Ludwig Schiele (1890–1918) was a famous Austrian Expressionist painter of the early 20th century. Gustav Klimt, the well-known figurative painter of the time, was one of his most influential mentors. 

Egon Schiele is known for the intensity and raw sexuality in his paintings. In addition, he is famous for the many self-portraits he produced – including nude self-portraits. In this article, we’ll briefly examine Egon Schiele’s life story and discuss his art and some of his paintings.

Schiele’s Early Years

Schiele’s father was the station master of the Tulln station in Austria, and as a child, Egon Schiele was fascinated by trains. He would spend so many hours drawing trains that his father destroyed his sketchbooks. 

When he was 11 years old, he started to attend secondary school in the city of Krems. At school, he was regarded as a “strange child.” He didn’t do well at school academically but was always interested in athletics and painting. 

He also displayed strange behavior towards his younger sister Gertrude, also known as Gerti. When he was only sixteen, he took his twelve-year-old sister to Trieste without permission. And he spent a night in a hotel room with her.

Academy of Fine Arts

When Schiele was fourteen, his father passed away, and he became a ward of his uncle Leopold Czihaczek who recognized Schiele’s drawing talent and arranged for a tutor, Ludwig Karl Strauch. 

Schiele entered the “Kunstgewerbeschule” (“School of Arts and Crafts”) in 1906 in Vienna. At the insistence of some faculty members, Schiele was sent within the first year to the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” in Vienna. However, he was frustrated with his teachers and left after three years. 

In the meantime, while still at the “Akademie,” Schiele met Gustav Klimt, who took an interest in the young artist, buying his drawings, arranging models for him, and introducing him to potential patrons. 

If you look at Schiele’s early works from 1907 to 1909, you detect strong similarities with Klimt’s artworks. You will also find influences from Art Nouveau.

All About Egon Schiele’s Art

Schiele had his first exhibition in Klosterneuburg (1908), and in 1909 he and other dissatisfied students of the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” founded the “Neukunstgruppe” (“New Art Group”). 

Once free of the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore the human form and also human sexuality. Some of Egon Schiele paintings had already been dating, but it went further when he started to include Klimt’s decorative eroticism.

In 1910, when Schiele had begun experimenting with nudes, he developed a definitive new style. His self-portrait, “Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands” (1910), is considered by art critics as among the most significant nude art pieces created during the 1900s. From 1910 onwards, he participated in many exhibitions and Secessionist shows. 

Egon Schiele’s Life Story – His Personal Life after 1911

In 1911, Egon Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Walburga (Wally) Neuzil, and lived together in Vienna. She served as a model for some of his most striking paintings. But Schiele and Wally wanted to “escape” from Vienna because they felt “claustrophobic.” So, they decided to go to the small town of Krumau in southern Bohemia, where his mother had grown up. However, he and Wally were driven out of the town. The residents strongly disapproved of their lifestyle and Egon Schiele’s art. 

The couple moved to Neulengbach, where the police arrested him in his studio. They seized several drawings which they considered pornographic. He was found guilty of showing erotic paintings and drawings in places that were accessible to children. Schiele used his 25 days in prison to create a series of 12 paintings illustrating the difficulties and hardship of being locked in a jail cell.

In later years, Wally left him and married Edith Harms in 1915. In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic reached Vienna, and Edith, six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on 28 October. Egon Schiele died only three days after her. During those three days, he drew a few sketches of Edith.

Famous Artwork: “Portrait of Wally”

This portrait is regarded by many as Schiele’s most famous and well-known work. The portrait depicts a young woman with brown hair and wide-open blue eyes staring out of the painting. 

The woman was the 17-year-old girl, Wally, whom he met in Vienna in 1911. Schiele and Wally had been lovers until they broke up when he married another woman

Interestingly, the painting was sold by mistake to the Austria National Gallery and purchased by Rudolph Leopold in 1954 as part of his collection. It was one of the artworks sold to the Austrian government for $500 million. 

Famous Artwork: “Kneeling Girl Resting on Both Elbows”

This is one of Schiele’s famous nudes and was created in 1917. He used black chalk and gouache on paper.  

The drawing features a woman bending forward with her weight supported by her elbows while her arms are interlocked, partially covering her face. She wears a dress and knee-high boots. Her skirt is pulled up her waist, exposing her bareback and behind. 

Famous Artwork: “Houses with Laundry (Seeburg)”

While this is not the most incredible of Schiele’s townscape paintings, it is his most expensive work to date. In 2011, it was sold at Sotheby’s for $40.1 million.

The work shows two houses seen from above. The part of the painting that stands out is the dozens of colorful clothes hanging out to dry. You will see that the composition lacks clarity of background or foreground. 

Art historians see a connection between the houses in the painting and Schiele’s mother’s birthplace in Krumau. He lived there for a while. 

Other famous Egon Schiele Artworks you should know about

Other famous Egon Schiele paintings you should know about include

  • Seated Male Nude, 1910
  • Self-Portrait with Physalis, 1912
  • The Blind Mother, 1914
  • Reclining Woman in Green Stockings, 1917
  • Four Trees, 1917
  • The Family, 1918

Conclusion

To a great extent, Egon Schiele was a “strange person,” as he was described at school. However, he had a significant impact on the artists in his time, and he created many artworks that are famous nowadays, including his nude studies, which were not always well accepted in his lifetime.