Egon Schiele (1890–1918) was an exquisite Austrian Expressionist painter who became famous worldwide. An aspect of his art that contributes to his famousness is the way he valued his drawings and sketches. He saw them as individual art pieces, not later paintings studies.
This was “strange” for that time when drawings were usually studied for later paintings. But this “strangeness” was part of his strange way of living. He was even called a “strange child” by his classmates at secondary school.
In this article, we’ll look at aspects of Schiele’s drawings and sketches, but to understand him better, we’ll first briefly discuss the “Egon Schiele Life Story.”
The Egon Schiele Life Story – First 21 Years
Egon Schiele was born in Austria in the small town of Tulln, and because his father was Tulln’s station master for the Austrian State Railways, Schiele grew up with trains. That is where his love for drawings started. From a very young age, he spent most of his time drawing various trains.
To attend secondary school, Egon went to Krems when he was 11 and later to Klosterneuburg. Although his school work was not on standard, he loved to draw. When he was 14 years old, Schiele’s father died, and he went to live with his maternal uncle, who recognized Schiele’s drawing talent and allowed him to be tutored by a known artist, Ludwig Karl Strauch.
In 1906 Schiele enrolled at the “Kunstgewerbeschule” in Vienna and later at the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste.” He met Gustav Klimt in Vienna, and Klimt became his mentor.
The Egon Schiele Life Story – The Last 7 Years
Egon Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Wally Neuzil in 1911. She was a model for many of his artworks, and they started to live together. Later they moved to Krumau to “escape” the “claustrophobic feeling” they had in Vienna. But unfortunately, they had to leave the little town after a while because the residents didn’t accept their lifestyle.
The couple then moved to Neulengbach, where he was accused of seducing a young girl. The police also seized hundreds of drawings that they considered pornographic. However, he was only found guilty of showing erotic paintings and drawings in places that were accessible to children, and he was in prison for 24 days. During those days, he created a series of 12 paintings.
In 1915 he met Edith Harms and married, and Wally left him. In 1918, Edith died of the disease, and Egon died only three days after her at 28.
General Information About Egon Schiele’s Art
Raw sexuality and intensity are two characteristics of Schiele’s artwork in general, whether it is his paintings, sketches, or drawings. Twisted body shapes characterize Egon Schiele’s paintings, sketches, and drawings. He depicted bodies and figures in a typical Expressionistic style. There are many similarities between Egon Schiele’s early art and works created by his mentor Gustav Klimt.
His first exhibition was in 1908 in Klosterneuburg, and in 1909 he and other dissatisfied students of the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” founded the “Neukunstgruppe” (“New Art Group”). Once they were free from the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore the human form and human sexuality, including Klimt’s decorative eroticism in his works.
In 1910, when Schiele began experimenting with nudes, he developed a definitive individual style. From this period onward, you also find more and more depictions of children in some of Egon Schiele’s paintings. He also painted many self-portraits during this time. His self-portrait, “Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands” (1910), is regarded by art scholars as one of the most significant nude drawings of the 20th century.
Schiele always regarded drawing as his primary art form and created about 3,000 drawings. Nowadays, he is regarded by art scholars as one of the best draughtsmen of the 20th century. But although he is internationally famous for his drawings, it is ironic that his most expensive work to date is one of his townscape paintings, “Houses with Laundry (Seeburg).” It was sold at Sotheby’s for $40.1 million.
Schiele’s Drawings And Sketches
Painters usually use drawings as studies for later paintings. They are very seldom regarded as individual artworks or masterpieces. The drawings are almost always just part of the process of creating a painting. However, this is where Egon Schiele’s drawings differ from other painters’ drawings. His drawings were not intended to be studies but works of art in their own right.
Even Gustav Klimt, who was Schiele’s mentor and friend, used drawings and sketches mostly to work out ideas for paintings. As a result, his drawings all relate to later paintings. Egon Schiele’s drawings, however, have no relation to any of the Egon Schiele paintings.
Concerning style, the line was always Schiele’s organizing principle and the energetic force in his drawings and sketches. His drawings were always closely related to real life. Twisted body shapes characterise Schiele’s drawings, a typical Expressionistic way of depicting subjects.
Schiele’s Dedication To Drawing
Some of the drawings Schiele created during his four weeks in the Neulengbach prison indicate Schiele’s dedication and compulsion to sketch, no matter the circumstances. In these “prison” drawings, his subject is the prison corridor with its mops, brooms, and buckets. His attitude regarding his drawing and sketching under any circumstance is clearly illustrated by the words “I don’t feel punished, rather cleansed,” which he wrote down on one of his drawings in prison.
Schiele often created self-portraits, leaving behind 170 self-portraits in pencil, watercolor, and oil. His very first self-portrait when he was a teenager was a sketch. Like most of his drawings, the sketch was not meant to be a study for a later painting. Instead, all his drawings and sketches were complete individual expressions of Egon Schiele’s art.
Schiele was much more a drawer than a painter. He created just over 300 paintings but completed thousands of drawings, including many self-portrait sketches.