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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Egon Schiele

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Egon Schiele: June 12,1890-October 31,1918...Austria 

"I must see new things and investigate them. I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds."
~Egon Schiele

One of the great, yet short lived artists in art history was Egon Schiele. His family was very upper class and his father was the stationmaster of a train depot. His dad, Adolf, got syphilis and took early retirement. The disease made him crazy: he destroyed stocks and bonds, he was visited by invisible people (often fighting with them), and died when Schiele was fifteen. His uncle took primary care of him. His mom, Marie ne Soukoup, had little control of the family affairs. His “high school” art teacher, Karl Stravch,  saw his talent and urged him to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. His old Uncle Leopold wanted none of that talk. Schiele did study painting and drawing in Vienna, but his uncle cut his guardianship and the money bags. He loved art but the people he respected most hated his style. His uncle, his teachers in Vienna, and even his mom all thought little of his art. Studying under Christian Ludwig Griepenkerl, he agreed to pass him in the finals under the condition that he would tell no one that he was his teacher. His art was greatly influenced by artists Gustav Klimt and Vincent van Gogh. Dissatisfied with the schools conservative approach to art, Schiele quit and founded a group of dissatisfied art students known as Neukunstgruppe. “My uncultivated teachers were always my worst enemies.”

He had great skills as an exceptional draftsman; working in pencil, watercolor, and gouache. He was known as an extremely well organized and a meticulous planner. Working like a god from the mountaintop, he would balance on top of a ladder drawing as he called down commands. Generally, he has no need for backgrounds. He was invited by Gustav Klimt to exhibit his art with him that year. Among his many artworks, he created art that centered on self-portraits or erotic allegories about life and death. “I believe in the immortality of all creatures.”

Schiele pushed the issue of right and wrong a little too far at times. He was arrested for creating immoral drawings and placed in jail for three days. "To restrict the artist is a crime. It is to murder germinating life." It all came about because he was living with his young female model, Wally Neuzil, in the small town of Neulengbach. The towns people were outraged. He was originally charged with seducing a minor with a two week sentence, but the charge was dropped and he only had to serve time for immoral art. One of the drawings was burnt in the open court to demonstrate the judges disapproval. “I do not deny that I have made drawings and watercolors of an erotic nature. But they are always works of art. Are there no artists who have done erotic pictures?” The artist developed a relationship with his model.

Wally remained his lover and model until Schiele married Edith Harms on June 17, 1915. That is not exactly what he wanted. He had asked Wally to consent to them taking a yearly vacation so they could go off together and draw and get back into their “old routine.” She wanted no part of that arrangement, so he said goodbye forever. Sadly, Wally went to war as a nurse and died of scarlet fever in 1917 at an Austrian military hospital. Four days after his wedding, he drafted into the Austrian army. Edith followed him and stayed in hotels where he was stationed. He did all sorts of odd work: primarily doing clerical work or guarding officers at a p.o.w. camp in Mhling, Austria. He hated military life although he was allowed to have a makeshift studio on the road. At home in Vienna, he was allowed to go to his studio to work when he was not working at the army supply commissary. He was working under art dealer Karl Grnwalt and the two became good friends. Grnwalt put a work in to have him work in the Army Museum. Austrians often placed their artists, writers, and musicians in the military into safe jobs. They had a higher status than their German counterparts. German artists like August Macke and Franz Marc died early on the front battlefields. Only months after an Austrian exhibition, Schiele received every professional artists dream; praise by the critics and financial success. He had to take the good with the bad. Soon after the successes, on October 28, in her sixth month of pregnancy, he’s wife died of the Spanish Influenza. Three days later he would also die from the pandemic at the age of twenty-eight.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063