Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Egon Schiele, Seated Woman with Bent Knee

Egon Schiele, Seated Woman with Bent Knee, 1917

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) was an Austrian Expressionist painter with a very distinctive style and aesthetic.  Schiele had a somewhat traumatic and disturbed childhood.  His father, Adolf, was a station master in the Austrian Sate Railways and young Egon became obsessed with trains.  He constantly drew them over and over and the obsession became so consuming that his father destroyed his sketchbooks.  Schiele also displayed incestuous tendencies toward his younger sister, Gerti.  Concerned with his son's behavior, Adolf broke down the children's locked door, only to discover them developing film.  When Egon was sixteen he took his twelve-year-old sister to a hotel room in Trieste without permission, but it is unknown what transpired there.  Egon's confused sexuality can be seen throughout his work, which often contains contorted figures, explicitly nude and nude self-portraits.  Schiele attended the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts and then became a student of Gustav Klimt, whose influence can be seen in some of his works. Although he experienced professional success, his life was also marred by a series of public struggles.  In 1912 he was arrested for seducing a girl below the age of consent.  Those charges were eventually dropped, but he was convicted of exhibiting erotic drawings in a place accessible to children.  The judge burned one of the offending drawings over a candle in the courtroom.  In 1914 he married a respectable girl named Edith Harms.  After avoiding conscription for over a year, Schiele did serve in World War I, first escorting Russian prisoners and then as a clerk.  He continued to paint throughout this time.  In autumn of 1918, Edith, who was six months pregnant, died of Spanish flu, and Egon died three days later.  In addition to his trademark figurative paintings, Schiele also did a number of intense landscapes.  Seated Woman with Bent Knee is an example of Schiele's trademark style, with its rough sketch-like appearance, but presents an interesting counter example to his nudes.  This piece is sexual, but not explicit, and much of the intensity is achieved through color.  The red hair and green shirt contrast with the subject's pale skin to create a thoroughly engaging tonality.  There is also a lot of depth in the woman's face, creating an extremely fascinating and effective portrait.

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