Egon Schiele Most Famous Paintings
Who is Egon Schiele?
Egon Schiele: Austria’s Controversial Expressionist. Known for his erotic and deeply psychological paintings, Egon Schiele was one of the leading artists of Austrian Expressionism in the 20th century. His artistic style is characterized by long, sinuous black lines and moderate use of color. Schiele’s palette consists mainly of murky, earthy colors.
His works prominently featured twisted bodies of men and women at odd, sexual angles – most of which were considered too shocking and offensive for the more conservative generation. The majority of his works were self-portraits, depicting himself in the nude and staring directly towards the viewer. His distorted paintings exuded a level of emotional and sexual directness that has been described as pornographic, disturbing, and grotesque.
At the early age of 17, Egon Schiele dropped out of art school and became an apprentice to an Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. Under Klimt’s tutelage, Egon Schiele was exposed to the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch. His earlier works were highly influenced by Klimt’s Art Nouveau style.
As he grew older, Egon Schiele began to explore the intricacies of the human form as well as human sexuality and started to develop his own daring style of art. Egon Schiele lived a short life, succumbing to Spanish influenza at the young age of 28. Though brief, his career was tainted by a lifestyle of scandal and notoriety.
These involved various claims of incestuous and pedophilic relations, including a 24-day prison, stay for seducing a minor and exhibiting erotic drawings in public. Egon Schiele is believed to have created 3000 drawings and 300 paintings during his lifetime, most of which were focused on the subjects of sex, death, and discovery.
Today, his legacy continues to inspire different artists throughout various genres, including singers like David Bowie and Sex Pistols lead vocalist Sid Vicious.
Here are 12 of Egon Schiele's most famous paintings:
- Portrait of Wally by Egon Schiele
- Portrait of Edith Schiele the artist's wife by Egon Schiele
- Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant by Egon Schiele
- The Embrace by Egon Schiele
- Four Trees by Egon Schiele
- Portrait of Gerti Schiele by Egon Schiele
- Death and the Maiden (Tod und Mädchen) by Egon Schiele
- Standing Girl in a Plaid Garment by Egon Schiele
- Reclining Woman by Egon Schiele
- Houses with Laundry (Seeburg) by Egon Schiele
- Nude with Blue Stockings Bending Forward by Egon Schiele
- Kneeling Girl Resting on Both Elbows by Egon Schiele
Egon Schiele Artworks
Portrait of Wally by Egon Schiele
Perhaps the most famous and well-known of Egon Schiele’s works, Portrait of Wally depicts a young woman with brown hair and wide-open, piercing blue eyes staring out of the painting.
The woman was 17-year-old Walburga Neuzil, nicknamed “Wally,” whom Schiele met in Vienna in 1911. Wally used to pose as a model for Schiele’s mentor Gustav Klimt, sparking rumors that she was Klimt’s mistress. Schiele and Wally soon become lovers and moved together to Neulengbach.
Here he established his studio where he was later arrested for exhibiting erotic drawings in public. They finally parted ways in 1914, when Schiele decided to marry Edith Harms. Portrait of Wally has passed many hands through the years. In 1939, art dealer Friedrich Welz demanded the painting from Jewish gallery owner Lea Bondi Jaray who was fleeing the German Annexation of Austria. At the end of World War II, the US seized Welz as well as the painting.
It was later sold by mistake to the Austria National Gallery and purchased by Rudolph Leopold in 1954 as part of his personal collection. In 1994, the portrait was one of several artworks sold for $500 million to the Austrian government to form part of the Leopold Museum, where Leopold himself served as museum director until his death in 2010. Claiming that the painting was taken by force during Nazi occupation, Lea Bondi Jaray’s heirs filed a legal case to recover the painting. It was settled for an amount of $19 million. To this day, Portrait of Wally remains in display at the Leopold Museum.
This 1915 oil painting features Schiele’s wife Edith standing in a colorful striped dress and her hair in a messy bun. Unlike most of Schiele’s work that depicts raw sexuality, the portrait shows a face of innocence and naivety as Edith smiles sweetly at viewers.
The couple met in 1914 while Schiele was living with Wally in his studio in Hietzing. Edith Harms was the daughter of a Protestant Locksmith who lived next door. Schiele had earlier expressed that he wanted to marry “advantageously” and the two were married in 1915. They both passed away due to Spanish influenza in 1918, while Edith was pregnant. The portrait is currently on display at the Museum Den Haag in Hague, Netherlands.
Self-Portrait with Chinese Lantern Plant by Egon Schiele
This is one of Schiele’s most celebrated self-portraits. Here, Schiele is shown in a black long-sleeved shirt, the ends of his spiky hair cropped out.
The angle is rather odd, as Schiele’s head is turned towards the right but his face is facing front, as his eyes stare straight ahead. To his left is a Chinese lantern and a few autumn leaves. With raised eyebrows, the portrait exudes an aura of confidence. Compared to other self-portraits, Schiele’s face and body are less distorted in this painting.
The portrait was a companion piece to Portrait of Wally, both painted by Schiele in 1912. It was one of 5,400 paintings sold to the Austrian government for $500 million in 1994. Today, the portrait is one of the most celebrated attractions of the Leopold Museum.
The Embrace by Egon Schiele
As its name suggests, this painting features a man and a woman in an intimate embrace against a musky yellow background. Both are naked and lying on a crumpled white blanket, their arms interlocking.
The woman’s face is turned away as she wraps her arms around the man’s shoulders. The man has his back to the viewers, showing his thin frame as he buries his face in the woman’s hair. Art critics believe that Schiele was drawing himself and his wife Edith Harms since the painting was done in 1917, two years after they were married.
Since their marriage in 1915, Schiele’s works became less gaunt and distorted, moving towards more romantic depictions of love and sexuality. The way the woman is positioned is reminiscent of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss – which is not surprising considering that Schiele was Gustav’s protégée and a lot of his earlier works were inspired by the latter. The Embrace is currently on display at the Osterreichische Gallery in Vienna, Austria.
Four Trees by Egon Schiele
Aside from painting distorted figures, Schiele also famous for his landscapes. This 1917 painting features four trees against a sunset background. The trees on both ends are healthy and full of life, while the two trees at the center have lesser leaves; the one on the right side being almost barren.
At the back, we see the slow setting sun behind the mountains that turns the sky into a cacophony of red and orange hues. Four Trees showcases the best of Schiele’s color palette that consists of musky, earthy colors reminiscent of autumn. What captures the viewers’ eye is the beautiful contrasting of the darker trees and mountains against the bright sun.
Many have interpreted the difference in the trees as a symbol of a healthier life outside of society as opposed to conforming to a more conservative lifestyle. Four Trees is currently located in Belvedere, Vienna, Austria.
Painted in 1909 when Schiele was only 19 years old, Portrait of Gerti Schiele is one of his earliest works. It depicts a young woman with her eyes closed and face turned to the left. For this work, Schiele used a combination of oil and metallic paint, blending together silver, gold, and bronze shades against a pristine white background.
The woman in the picture is Schiele’s younger sister by two years Gertrude (Gerti, for short) who would often model for him at home. Growing up, the siblings began showing incestuous tendencies and even ran away to spend a night together in a hotel.
At the time of painting, Schiele was still under the tutelage of Gustav Klimt and his earlier works like Portrait of Gerti were highly influenced by Klimt’s Art Nouveau style. This is clear from the softer brush strokes and two-dimensional impressions. Portrait of Gerti is currently housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Death and the Maiden (Tod und Mädchen) by Egon Schiele
Death and the Maidan unites two of Schiele’s most common themes: death and eroticism. The color palette shows dabs of mud and rust. The viewer is watching from a high vantage point and is looking down on two figures: a man in black and a woman in a brightly colored dress.
They are lying on top of a rumpled white blanket. Both are grasping each other solemnly, arms locked in a sad embrace. From first glance, the viewer instantly picks up a feeling of sadness and loneliness. Schiele started the painting in 1915 when Walburga “Wally” Neuzil left him after he told her he was to marry Edith Harms. Death and the Maiden is currently being kept in Belvedere, Vienna, Austria.
Standing Girl in a Plaid Garment by Egon Schiele
Standing Girl in a Plaid Garment is Schiele’s largest known drawing and was completed using Conte crayon and black chalk on brown wrapping paper. The work depicts a young woman who is nude from the waist up.
Her shoulders and lower half are covered in what appears to be plaid cloth. Her eyes are closed as she faces towards the left. Her face exudes an aura of calmness and grace, in contrast to her awkward, bony fingers – a common element in most of Schiele’s work.
The drawing was done in 1909 when a young Schiele began showing a deep interest in Sigmund Freud’s studies of the mind and sexuality. The painting was done in the 20th century Art Nouveau style, clearly showing the influence of Gustave Klimt.
Reclining Woman by Egon Schiele
Like many of Schiele’s works, Reclining Woman demonstrates his clear interest in depicting raw sexuality. The painting features a young woman completely nude lying on a rumpled white sheet, her long, messy brown hair spread all over. The woman has her legs spread out wide, partially exposing her womanhood while her face remains serene and calm.
Her arms are bent all the way above her head. From the viewer’s high vantage point, it is easy to see the contrasting directions between legs and arms – each pointing towards a different direction. In Schiele’s original painting, the woman’s genitalia was completely exposed. But because he needed to put it on display at the Secession in 1918, Schiele made adjustments and painted over it with a white sheet. Reclining Woman is currently on display at the Leopold Museum.
Houses with Laundry (Seeburg) by Egon Schiele
While not the most impressive of Schiele’s townscape paintings, Houses with Laundry is his most expensive work to date. It was sold at Sotheby’s in 2011 for $40.1 million.
The work depicts two houses from a bird’s eye view. These houses are big, huge structures with chimneys and archways. The only other part of the painting that stands out are the dozens of colorful clothes in front hanging out to dry.
The composition is flat without any background in the foreground. Art critics deciphered a personal, family connection to the houses, suspecting that Schiele was painting his mother’s birthplace Krumau. He lived there for a while and had referred to it in the past as a “dead city.”
Nude with Blue Stockings Bending Forward by Egon Schiele
Sigmund Freud’s subjects of psychology and sexuality deeply influenced Schiele, whose favorite subject was painting nudes. In this drawing, the viewer is again at a high vantage point looking down on a woman who is bending forward.
She is completely naked, except for a pair of bright blue stockings – a stark contrast against the otherwise dull, white background. Her face is hidden from view, and the only part visible is her back that is slightly contorted and bony.
The work was created in 1912 using a pencil and gouache on white paper. The drawing is currently available for viewing at the Leopold Museum.
One of Schiele’s more famous nudes, this drawing features a woman bending forward with her weight supported by both her elbows. Her arms are interlocked, partially covering her face other than her eyes and nose.
She wears a dress and knee-high boots. Her skirt is pulled up all the way up her waist, exposing her bareback and behind. Other than the woman’s brown hair and boots, the drawing is otherwise bereft of color, and focus is on the long, black sinuous lines.
This drawing was created in 1917 using black chalk and gouache on paper. The drawing is currently available for viewing at the Leopold Museum.
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