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Egon Schiele

June 12, 1890 - October 31, 1918


The protégé of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele’s work often took an erotic charge as he explored life, death, and inner desires through interrogating the human body in his art. Egon Schiele was born on June 12, 1890 in Tulln, Austria, and attended the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna in 1906. Egon Sciele met Klimt in 1907, who would become his most important mentor. Egon Schiele took part in his first exhibition shortly after, in 1908. By the following year, he developed a style that was often categorized as Expressionism but possessed traits that were unique to his work and differed from the movement as a whole. Egon Schiele was frequently at odds with the law; police officers would often confiscate his erotic art, and in 1912 he was arrested for the abduction and rape of a minor. Despite these events, he would remain a prolific artist and, in 1915, married Edith Harms. Egon Schiele was drafted into World War I shortly after that, but spent the majority of his service in Vienna as an office worker and an escort for prisoners of war. He never ceased exhibiting his art. In 1918, Egon Schiele died of Spanish Influenza, three days after his pregnant wife had died as well. He was only 28 years old. Egon Schiele’s exploration of human intimacy and the inner self was what gave weight to the entirety of his art, but especially his portraiture. His portraits of close friends, lovers, and patrons, were often intimate experiences, as he made consistent eye contact with the sitter in order to access their inner world. Common to his work were eccentric gestures and expressions and distortions of the form to explore what he defined as the “crisis of the individual.” In his work, Egon Schiele also tended to place himself as a sage or clairvoyant with a higher understanding of the world. His body of work intended to prove that all art–and all exploration of the human spirit–was sacred, erotic, or not.

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