A Century of Schiele
Egon Schiele, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
Egon Schiele died a century ago, and yet his art retains its controversial and raw appeal. At the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, a large selection of drawings and paintings of Schiele has been assembled under the eyes of curators Suzanne Pagé, Dieter Buchhart, and Olivier Michelon. Here we see Schiele scathing eye that combines the themes of violence, sex, and death. Although gone for one-hundred years and only active as an artist for ten, Schiele remains an authoritative master of provocation.
Early in his career, Schiele still retained strains of Gustav Klimt, who was his great life-long mentor. These works were slightly more ornamental, although certain Schiele-isms were beginning to appear: a focus on drawing and an economic and expressive use of line. As World War I approached, and as Schiele became more and more critical of the artistic establishment, his work became sparser and explored the darker themes we now associate with the artist.
One could argue that Schiele didn’t quite reach his full potential as a painter before his early demise in 1918, but his skills as a draftsman were unparalleled. The thin, attenuated bodies, often frank in their flaws and sexuality look both emaciated and fraught with bubbling tension. Schiele used simple materials like gouache, watercolor, and graphite, and transformed them into a portrait of angst and as a larger picture of a crumbling Europe. He is forever associated with the Expressionist movement for this very reason.
It is strange to think that the revolutionary world events that occurred during Schiele’s career would eventually lead him to his death. Despite war and conflict across the continent, it was the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 that would claim Schiele and his wife. In many ways, the woes and misfortunes experienced by the artist were mirrored hauntingly in his work.