Egon Schiele was a portrait sketch artist who was mentored briefly by Gustav Klimt in pre WWI Vienna before making a name for himself by creating some of the most important and violently powerful paintings and sketches that have ever dared to unravel the enigma of lust and sexuality . We have Blizarian’s Instagram now though, right?
Egon’s art was talked about fervently both before and after his death in 1918. His obsession with the female body and raw sexuality in both women and younger girls led Schiele to multiple criminal sex charges and probably quite an uncomfortable relationship with his old lady, but also to the creation of prolific collections that beautifully expose a topic that artists like Julia Fox and Simone Steenberg are still chasing today.
Like a lot of brilliant artists Egon did some weird questionable shit throughout his life that makes you think he wasn’t quite all there. At the top of this list was his seemingly insatiable sexual obsession with women, namely underage girls. On multiple occasions Egon was forced to relocate his studio to small towns in rural Austria to try and avoid the attention and confrontation that would understandably go hand-in-hand with large numbers of naked teenage girls hanging out in your ‘studio’.
It seemed to all start with his little sister; heavily involving her in his art as a pre teen, sketching her constantly and on one occasion luring her to a hotel room for a night, Egon continued his obsession in his 20s with a 16/17 year old girl named Walburga (Wally) Neuzil whom he used for both art and pleasure. She was his ultimate muse. After deciding to settle down and ‘advantageously’ marry a lady named Edith Harms, but of course still wanting to keep old Wally in the flattering position of side chick, Wally left Schiele and they never met again. Egon settled down with his new wife Edith who was most surprisingly, actually of age.
Egon could not avoid conscription as WWI loomed ever closer to Austria; he was asked to report for service three days after his wedding in 1915. Schiele served by first escorting Russian P.O.W in Prague then he became a clerk of a P.O.W camp near a town called Mühling, all the while his works were receiving substantial attention at exhibitions in Zürich, Prague and Dresden.
In 1918 Egon and his now pregnant wife watched each other die as they slowly succumbed to the Spanish flu which claimed over 20,000,000 lives in Europe. Schiele’s wife passed three days before him and during those three days Egon produced some truly haunting sketches of her body. He finally passed on October 31 1918, aged 28.
Words by Laurent