A Century of Schiele

Egon Schiele, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

Cover Image - Egon Schiele, "Self-Portrait with Peacock Waistcoat, Standing," 1911. Gouache, watercolor, and black crayon on paper, mounted on cardboard. 51.5 × 34.5 cm. Ernst Ploil, Vienna Picture: Courtesy of Ernst Ploil, Vienne. Header Image - Egon Schiele, "Lovers," 1918 (unfinished). Oil on canvas. 155 x 210 cm. Private collection, Leopold. Picture: Courtesy of Private collection, Leopold.

BY: Zach Wampler

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 PagéDieter 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.

 

Egon Schiele - Standing Nude with a Patterned Robe
Egon Schiele, “Standing Nude with a Patterned Robe,” 1917. Gouache and black crayon on buff paper. 45.9 × 29.3 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Gift of The Robert and Mary M. Looker Family Collection, 2016. Picture: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 

Egon Schiele - Portrait of Trude Engel
Egon Schiele, “Portrait of Trude Engel,” 1911-1913. Oil on canvas. 100 x 100 cm. LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz. Picture: © Reinhard Haider.

 

Egon Schiele drawing - Reclining Nude Girl in Striped Smock
Egon Schiele, “Reclining Nude Girl in Striped Smock,” 1911. Pencil and watercolor on paper. 44.3 × 30.6 cm. Private collection, Vienna. Courtesy of Kunsthandel Giese & Schweiger, Vienna Picture: © Kunsthandel Giese & Schweiger, Vienne.

 

Drawing by Egon Schiele - Self-Portrait
Egon Schiele, “Self-Portrait,” 1912. Watercolor over graphite on light brown wove japan paper. 34.9 × 25.4 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Gift of Hildegard Bachert in memory of Otto Kallir, 1997. Picture: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 

Drawing by Egon Schiele - Standing Female Nude with Blue Cloth
Egon Schiele, “Standing Female Nude with Blue Cloth,” 1914. Gouache, watercolor, and graphite on vellum paper. 48.3 × 32.2 cm. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg Picture: © Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg.

 

Drawing by Egon Schiele - Standing Man
Egon Schiele, “Standing Man,” 1913. Gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper. 48.1 × 31.8 cm. Ömer Koç. Picture: © Hadiye Cangókçe.

 

Drawing by Egon Schiele - Reclining Woman with Blonde Hair,
Egon Schiele, “Reclining Woman with Blonde Hair,” 1914. Transparent and opaque watercolor over graphite on paper. 31.7 × 48.5 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund and Friends of Art Fund. Picture: © Mitro Hood.

 

Drawing by Egon Schiele - Self-Portrait with Peacock Waistcoat Standing
Egon Schiele, “Self-Portrait with Peacock Waistcoat, Standing,” 1911. Gouache, watercolor, and black crayon on paper, mounted on cardboard. 51.5 × 34.5 cm. Ernst Ploil, Vienna Picture: Courtesy of Ernst Ploil, Vienne.

 

Painting by Egon Schiele - Lovers
Egon Schiele, “Lovers,” 1918 (unfinished). Oil on canvas. 155 x 210 cm. Private collection, Leopold. Picture: Courtesy of Private collection, Leopold.