Friday, November 16, 2007

Egon Schiele

Austrian painter, draftsman, and printmaker, known for his paintings of angular, anguished figures. His nudes have a frankly sexual quality despite the awkwardness of their lonely, emaciated forms. In his many self-portraits, contorted figures crouch in uncomfortable positions, starkly framed against blank backgrounds, with limbs cut off by the edges of the picture. Schiele drew these works using simple ink lines accented with blotches of watercolors that suggest diseased flesh.

Schiele’s work helped define an Austrian version of expressionism, an art movement that had recently gained hold in Germany. Expressionism advocated distortion or exaggeration to express a personal or emotional vision. Schiele’s interest in expressionism was inspired by the work of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, French artist Paul Gauguin, and the German expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), with whom he exhibited briefly in 1912.

Born in Tullin, near Vienna, Schiele was accepted to Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 16. In 1907 Schiele became a close friend and admirer of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. Schiele’s early work emulated Klimt’s elegantly ornamental art nouveau style. Although this influence remained evident in the decorative patterns with which Schiele depicted clothing and landscapes, Schiele soon developed his own more expressive style of distorted outlines. In 1909 Schiele led a small group of students who sought creative freedom from the Academy and formed the Neukunstgruppe (New Art Group). That same year Schiele showed several paintings at Vienna’s International Art Exhibition of 1909, at the age of just 19.

In 1911 Schiele moved to the town of Krumau (now Ceský Krumlov, Czech Republic), where he painted self-portraits, nudes, and landscapes. Local residents objected to the sexuality of his drawings, and after only three months he moved to Neulengbach, near Vienna. Schiele’s disturbingly erotic works and use of very young girls for models led to his arrest and brief imprisonment in 1912 for corruption of minors.



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