FAMILY - CHILDHOOD
1890 - 1905
Egon Schiele was born on June 12, 1890 in Tulln (near Vienna). The Schieles lived in the station house of the Tulln railroad station. Egon grew up there with his sisters Melanie and Gertrude. His oldest sister Elvira died in 1893 at the age of ten.
Schiele´s father, who originally came from Vienna, was a stationmaster for the Royal and Imperial Railroad. His grandfather had been one of the railroad pioneers and built the Bohemian route from Prague to Eger. His mother (born Soukup) was born in Krumau (to day Český Krumlov) in 1861. She was from a Southern Bohemian family of farmers and craftsmen.
Egon loved to draw and paint from his earliest childhood. He attended elementary school in Tulln and secondary school in Krems and Klosterneuburg.
His father died in 1905. Schiele´s uncle, Leopold Czihaczek (who was from Moravia), became his legal guardian. In keeping with his father´s wishes, his uncle, himself an engineer and chief inspector for the Royal and Imperial Railroad, had designs for Schiele to study at the College of Technology. But some of Schiele´s teachers encouraged the boy to opt for a career in the arts. Schiele produced his first paintings in Klosterneuburg as early as 1905.
STUDIES - VIENNA ACADEMY
1906 - 1910
In 1906 Schiele passed the entrance exam for the Akademie der bildenden Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) in Vienna. He attended the general painting class under Professor Christian Griepenkerl, a conservative, academic, turn-of-the-century painter. Conflicts between the reactionary teacher and the rebellious student culminated in Schiele leaving the Akademy in April 1909 and founding the Neukunstgruppe with a group of like-minded fellow students. Arthur Roessler, the art historian for the daily paper Wiener Arbeiterzeitung, took notice of Schiele and in subsequent years was his most important benefactor.
In 1907, still at the Akademy, Schiele met Gustav Klimt, the celebrated master of the Vienna Secession. Then seventeen years old, Schiele viewed the 45-year-old Klimt as his spiritual father. Still under the influence of Klimt in early 1909, Schiele broke away from the older artist by the end of that same year and developed his own unique artistic style.
Schiele participated in a public exhibition for the first time in 1909; it was held at Klosterneuburg Abbey. In the same year he showed at the Internationale Kunstschau in Vienna. Contacts ensued with collectors, publishers, and the architects Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffmann; the later directed the Wiener Werskstätte, a cooperative for the promotion of arts and crafts founded in 1903. Schiele occasionally worked for the Werkstätte in the years 1909 and 1910. The most important commissioned work for the Wiener Werkstätte was the portrait of Poldi Lodzinsky, which was initially planned as a stained glass window for Palais Stoclet in Brussels but was never executed as such.
Numerous exhibitions in Austrian and German galleries followed. The critics' responses varied. Some recognized genius, but the majority criticized his works. One even refferred to them as "outgrowths of a deranged mind".
KRUMAU (TODAY ČESKÝ KRUMLOV)
1910 - 1911
Schiele was overcome by an increasing yearning for the nature of the Bohemian Forest near Krumau, his mother´s birthplace. He had already produced his first painting featuring a local motiv, The Budweis Gate in Krumau, in 1906. The town was to figure prominently in his work for the rest of his life.
On May 12, 1910, Schiele traveled to Krumau with his painter friends Anton Peschka and Ervin Osen and decided to settle down there permanently.
A year later, in May 1911, Schiele found a little house with a garden on the Moldau River and moved there with his companion Wally Neuzil, whom he had met earlier as Gustav Klimt´s model. He painted townscapes and imaginary landscapes. Schiele´s lonesome, soulful images of angular houses are imbued with as much penetrating insight as his paintings of living models.
For a while, life in Krumau was peacefull. Schiele frequented "Cafe Fink" on a regular basis (on the corner of Laterans and Pivovarská Lane) and the town made its largest hall available to him for working on large paintings. Neighborhood children often stopped by the garden house to visit, as did Schiele´s eccentric painter friend, the mime Ervin Osen.
The idyllic provincial life did not last long. The town´s conservative citizens took issue with Schiele´s liberal lifestyle and above all with the fact that he drew nudes using pubescent girls as models. The initial friendliness turned into overt hostility, and he was forced to leave town by August 6. But Schiele returned to Krumau repeatedly - this time staying at the inns called "Zur Stadt Wien" and "Zum goldenen Engel". His works are suffused with the town´s atmosphere; paintings with titles like Dead Town or The Yellow Town reflect his fascination. He produced one of the last known drawings of Krumau, Old Gabled Houses in Krumau, in 1917.
THE NEULENGBACH AFFAIR
After leaving Krumau, Schiele settled down with Wally Neuzil in Neulengbach, a town on the outskirts of Vienna. They enjoyed the rural surroundings and took advantage of the proximity to the artistic life of the capital city and to collectors and buyers.
Schiele showed his works in numerous exhibitions, among other venues at the Budapest Künstlerhaus (with the Neukunstgruppe), at Goltz in Munich (together with Der blaue Reiter), at the Folkwang Museum in Hagen, at the Vienna Hagenbund, and at the Cologne Sonderbund. By 1911 he had already joined the Munich artists´ group Sema, whose members also included Klee and Kubin.
Schiele experienced a severe setback when he was summoned to the Neulengbach District Court on April 13, 1912 and imprisoned while awaiting trial for allegedly abducting and seducing a minor. So-called immoral drawings had been confiscated at his house before the arrest. At the end of April the artist was transferred to the St. Pölten County Court and on May 7 was finally sentenced to three days´ imprisonment (already served) for "violating public morality". The serious accusations proved untenable, but the nude drawings hanging in his studio where considered an offense to public morality and sufficient justification for the sentence. A drawing of a nude girl was supposedly burned ceremoniously at the end of the trial.
Although these events were more or less a provincial farce, they left Schiele in a state of deep shock. He produced thirteen of his most impressive works during his 24-day imprisonment.
1912 - 1914
After the events in Neulengbach, Schiele traveled to Carinthia and Triest. In between, he returned to Vienna and lived with his mother. In November he found a suitable studio apartment at Hietzinger Hauptstraße 101, where he was to work until his death.
Schiele´s reputation grew continuously, above all outside of Austria. In 1913 and 1914 he participated in exhibitions in Budapest, Cologne, Dresden, Munich, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Brussels, Paris and Rome, and for the first time he was represented at the Vienna Secession, the famous exhibition house of the Austrian avant-garde.
From 1913 to 1916 Schiele published graphic works and poems in Die Aktion, a Berlin weekly for politics, literature, and art published by Franz Pfemfert. A special "Egon Schiele Issue" appeared in 1916 with woodcuts and drawings by the artist.
After the Munich - based artist group Sema published Schiele´s first lithograph, Male Nude (a self-portrait), in one of its portfolios in 1912, Roessler, counting on the better salability of prints, recommended that he study etching and woodcut techniques with the painter and printmaker Robert Phillipi. Schiele worked in these media for a short time in the summer of 1914, but found them too boring compared to drawing; only a few prints were produced.
A series of portrait photographs from 1914 features Schiele in a succession of deliberate poses. They were taken by the Viennese photographer Anton Josef Trčka under Schiele´s direction.
MARRIAGE - MILITARY
1914 - 1918
In the spring of 1914, a friendship developed between Schiele and Adele and Edith Harms, two sister who lived across the street from his studio. Schiele serioulsy courted Edith. She was three years younger than him and had been educated at a strict convent school. He separated from Wally, who subsequently volunteered to for military service as a Red Cross nurse. She died of scarlet fever in 1917.
After the war broke out in 1914, Schiele was defferred for military service twice. At the third medical examination he was declared fit for service. Four days before his conscription, on June 17, he married Edith Harms. On June 21 he entered military service in Prague, accompanied by Edith, who took a room at the art nouveau-style Hotel Paris. Edith also followed him to Neuhaus in Bohemia, where he completed basic training. Schiele was posted as a guard near Vienna and was allowed to spend his free time in his studio in Vienna. In 1916 he served as a clerk for the offficers' prison camp in Mühling, Lower Austria. While there, he drew portraits of the Russian officers imprisoned there. In 1917 he was transferred to the "Royal and Imperial Cooperative for Army Contractors" in Vienna and appointed with the task of producing drawings for all of the sections of the army for a commemorative publication. When he was finally transferred to the Army Museum in 1918, he was able to devote more of his time to his artistic career.
On the recommendation of the people who recognized his talent, Schiele was exempt from armed service and completed his military service in administrative positions. As a result, he was able to create a large number of works in the war years, among them some of his most important paintings. His special position also allowed him to continue exhibiting in Austria, Germany, and Scandinavia.
THE LAST YEAR
Gustav Klimt died on February 6, 1918. Egon Schiele drew his portrait on his deathbed. The 49th Vienna Secession exhibition was scheduled to open in March; Klimt had been the Secession´s president. Schiele took over the organization of the group show and designed the exhibition poster called Tafelrunde. On the poster, Schiele is sitting at the head of the table surrounded by his painter friends. Schiele showed 19 oil paintings and 29 drawings, some of them with watercolour, in the main hall of the Secession. The exhibition was a tremendous success for him. He was able to sell many of the works, and he also received portrait commisssions for a number of well-known personality. He rented a second studio on Wattmanngasse for large-scale paintings.
The pinnacle of his career was followed by catastrophe. Even though they tried to isolate themselves and do everything they could to prevent enfection, Schiele´s pregnant wife contracted the Spanish flu that raged in Vienna and had claimed millions of victims around the world. Edith Schiele died on October 28,1918, Egon three days later, on October 31, at the age of 28. Schiele's oeuvre encompasses 330 paintings and more than 3 000 works on paper.
ANTON PESCHKA (1885-1940)
AND ANTON PESCHKA JR.
Egon Schiele and his best friend, fellow painter Anton Peschka, whom he had met in 1906 at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, shared the same fate in their years of artistic training: having to suffer the conservative mentality of Professor Christian Griepenkerl. Their mutual antipathy led them to opposition and ultimately caused them to leave the Akademie in 1909 together with similarly minded fellow artists and form the Neukunstgruppe. This artists´ group was meant to give them creative freedom without academic dogma. Trips to places like Krumau and the exchange of experiences in conversations and letters formed an integral part of their friendship.
A number of Peschka´s early works were strongly influenced by Schiele. In 1912/13, Peschka worked in the studio of the set painter Antonín Brioschi. In 1914, he married Schiele´s sister Gerti. From 1922 to 1938, Peschka was a member of the Hagenbund and later joined the Salzburg artists´group called Wassermann. His son, Anton Peschka, Jr., followed in his father´s footsteps and became a painter. He, too, was trained at the Akademie in Vienna.