Early Life of Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele was a disciple of Gustav Klimt, a European sensation, and his stunning work sometimes gets lost in the shadows of Klimt’s limelight. Egon Schiele, an Austrian artist known for his many self-portraits, provocative nuance, and precise line work, specialized in Expressionist figure painting with sexual undertones.

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Egon Schiele_©Wikimedia

Egon Schiele was a German artist who lived from 1890 until 1918. His life was brief, but it was full of adventure. He was born to a German father and a German-Czech mother in Austria. Schiele’s father struggled from insanity, which may have set the roots of the artist’s interest in the human psyche, and he also visited brothels, which is presumably where the artist’s fixation with sexual practices originated. When he was fifteen, his father died of syphilis. Soon after, he began taking lessons to better his sketching talents, and he finally enrolled in a fine arts school for formal schooling.

However, he withdrew because his tutors insisted on using culturally conservative methods, which were incompatible with Schiele’s viewpoints. Gustav Klimt, who was known for constantly taking young artists under his tutelage, approached him when he was 17 years old. Klimt, like Schiele, was drawn to showing primal sensuality, which has been criticized as being overly graphic. Klimt was also known for arranging young models for his works.

Art Style and Philosophy

When juxtaposed against Klimt’s work, Schiele’s work has a very contrasting aesthetic, yet the two artists share a common admiration for the magnificence of the human figure, particularly the female form. Schiele’s art was recognised for focusing on sex and death motifs, and his technique was skilled at creating scandalous and discordant images, presenting the macabre in a somewhat brilliant light.

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Self Portrait with Physalis, 1912_©Wikimedia

Schiele’s style was created and conveyed with confidence even at an early age. His paintings have distinctive and emotionally stimulating colours, which he uses to create palettes that elicit the mood of the occasion. Many of his sketches only use colour as accents, thus his use of colour is purposeful and exceedingly cautious.

His concern with human form was depicted in a lifelike approach, capturing the essence of his subjects but ignoring actuality. The forms were generally sickly and malnourished, whether male or female. His models, including himself, were depicted as deformed, pallid, wounded, and, more often than not, in sensual positions. Schiele was enthralled with his own face and, in particular, his physique, as with his models, who were frequently minors. The treatment of his art is abrasive and jittery, with vivid colours. The genitalia, desiccated faces, widely spread and stretched fingers, and lovers’ positions soldered together in the climactic paroxysm are all highlighted in his art.

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Kneeling Girl, Resting on Both Elbows, 1917_©Wikimedia

Schiele’s works were profoundly one-of-a-kind and distinctive. It focuses on physically demanding subjects, primarily portraits. His figures appear to be alone, with deformed bodies and skeletal faces, as though deep in thought. He often erased his subject’s limbs by contorting them and utilising foreshortening techniques, which adds to the sense of unease. The women are visibly muscular and belligerent, spreading their legs to the artist and the audience. Even today, his art may be unsettling, let alone a century ago.

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Egon Schiele, Green Stocking, 1917_©Wikimedia

The androgynous style in which the models are depicted is one of the most remarkable elements of his renditions. Rather than overdone machismo, his male figures were characterized with a sensitive and sympathetic approach. With seamless compositions, he embodied the delicacy and anguish of human existence in all of its psychological and emotional ramifications.

Impact on the Art World

Schiele was labelled the “Titan of Modernism” for his work that defied societal values for artists at the time. His painting turned out to be far too provocative and out of the ordinary for his audience. While Klimt pushed the bounds of traditional painting by adopting more expressionist techniques, Schiele went even beyond. He introduced unpleasantness at a period when art was supposed to be the purifier of beauty, a shocking move for many. Simply by reimagining what was worth placing on the canvas, Schiele accomplished far more for art than many other artists.

Despite the global pandemic, he continued to create magnificent portraits until the end. Regardless of the fact that his life was short and his artistic career was considerably limited, Schiele left behind a legacy that was well embraced by subsequent generations. He is remembered today as an artist who opened the way for many Viennese Modernists and whose works inspired the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Schiele’s work is timeless and relevant. Despite the fact that he only lived for 28 years, he was a prodigious artist who produced over 300 paintings and hundreds of pieces on paper. The hideous twisted bodies, emotional angst, and exposed sexuality that made his art controversial in his early years are precisely the traits that have assured his art persists. He regarded the human form or spirit as an animal rather than a moral person, and he advocated for complete freedom in order to allow for creative individualism and self-determination.

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The Cardinal and the Nun, 1912_©Wikimedia

Schiele’s art is grim and unique, and it cannot be confined to his characters’ sensual or aggressive postures, nor to a simple glorification of the self as an entity. His work is modernised by the aggressive lines of his drawings and the abstracted and dissociated movement of his characters.


  1. world, S. (n.d.). Remembering Austrian painter Egon Schiele’s revolutionary erotic art style. [online] www.stirworld.com. Available at: https://www.stirworld.com/see-features-remembering-austrian-painter-egon-schiele-s-revolutionary-erotic-art-style.
  2. Visual-arts-cork.com. (2020). Egon Schiele: Austrian Expressionist Figure Painter. [online] Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-artists/schiele-egon.htm.
  3. Barnebys.com. (2019). Egon Schiele: A Singular Style. [online] Available at: https://www.barnebys.com/blog/egon-schiele-a-singular-style [Accessed 12 Sep. 2021].
  4. Rise Art. (n.d.). Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele | Masters of Sex and Death. [online] Available at: https://www.riseart.com/guide/2289/art-world-news-gustav-klimt-and-egon-schiele-masters-of-sex-and-death.

Faria is an architecture student at IGDTUW, Delhi. She feels passionate towards learning and actively looks for new experiences. She believes that the design language should be universally accessible and understood, hence, she strives to uncover hidden dynamics of design by shifting the language from visual to verbal.

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