L’enfant terrible

Egon Schiele: The Leopold Collection
by Rudolf Leopold ★★★½
Egon Schiele (June 12, 1890  – October 31, 1918) was an Austrian painter. He was a protégé of Gustav Klimt, and as such his early work showed strong Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil influences, though very quickly, his use of strong expressive lines, twisted body shapes and unusual colour use became closer in style to that of the Expressionists. During his lifetime, Schiele was accused of producing pornographic imagery, and there’s no denying that he had an obvious fixation on the female sex. Partly because of this, his work was not given full recognition until much later on in the 20th century. Rudolph Leopold began collecting art in the 1950’s, including works by Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, but he especially favoured works by Egon Schiele, which could be had inexpensively at the time. The Austrian government purchased his extensive collection in 1994 and the Leopold Museum in Vienna, which was opened to the public in 2001, now houses the world’s largest permanent collection of Schiele’s work. The book features works from Schiele’s student days in 1907 to 1918, the year of Schiele’s death during the flu pandemic. The works are arranged chronologically, with large, high-quality reproductions, each accompanied with notes by Leopold, and there is a short biography of Schiele’s life at the end of the book.

I’ve only recently become interested in this artist as I re-discovered him at the museum bookstore during a trip to view an exhibition of the work of Otto Dix. There’s no denying that Schiele’s work is disturbing. He was fascinated with death and distressing imagery—even his landscapes and cityscapes can be unbearably oppressive—but I was drawn by the many drawings and watercolours in the book which show Schiele’s undeniable strengths as a draughtsman and bold colourist, which are of interest to me as an art student. I was only able to look at this book a few pages at a time, and while I found some of Leopold’s commentary interesting, it suffered from a lack of objectivity, as Leopold was likely one of the artist’s biggest fans. While I still can’t be counted among Schiele’s strongest admirers, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in influential early 20th century art.

For more online content on this artist, visit the Egon Schiele page on Artsy.net.


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