A Closer Look at Egon Schiele


Egon Schiele was a leading figure in Austrian Expressionism. He is most prominently known for his paintings and drawings of grotesque nude figures. However, Schiele also worked as a designer, creating many posters during his career. Elongated and distorted figures were ever-present throughout the various mediums he worked in. Egon Schiele worked alongside Oskar Kokoschka, who was another important artist in the Expressionist movement. The two were protégés of Gustav Klimt and studied at Kunstgewerbeschule.


Egon Schiele, Musik Festwoche, 1912, Lithograph Poster

Both Schiele and Kokoschka use self-portraits religiously throughout their works. Art Nouveau elements are seen in their work through the usage of lengthened bodies and hand lettering. However, the incorporation of self-portraiture made the art more personal by delving into the artist’s sense of inner awareness. The quality of representing an existing person rather than a symbolic figure caused the overall mood to be inherently more expressive. The quote from Peter Selz does a great job explaining this correlation when saying “…Frequently, where symbolism merely suggests and understates, Expressionism exaggerates and overstates” (qtd. in Eskilson 92).

Egon Schiele was no stranger to tragedy. His life was short and jam-packed with a great deal of unfortunate circumstances. Schiele was forced to deal with calamity at a young age. His father died from a syphilis infection when Schiele was fourteen. In his later years (later being the young age of 28), Schiele’s pregnant wife died of Spanish influenza and he died of the same disease just three days later.

At the age of 17, Schiele was painting traditional landscapes and scenes that were deeply rooted in modes of academia. Here is an example of a work by young Egon:


Egon Schiele, Village with Mountains, 1907, Oil on Paper

As you can see, these images are jarringly different from the works he is best known for. Harsh images addressing sexual themes as well as death were commonly depicted in Schiele’s later work. They were seen as controversial and rejected by many. His shift in style further supports his role as a major artist contributing to the Art Nouveau movement. Artists were striving for new ways to apply materials.


Egon Schiele, Self-Portrait with Raised Arms, 1914



Boyd, William. “Egon Schiele: A Graphic Virtuoso Rescued from the Wilderness.” The Guardian. N.p., 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.

Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design A New History. 2nd ed. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2007. Print.

“Egon Schiele Biography.” Egon Schiele: The Complete Works. N.p., 2002. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.

Fischer, Wolfgang G. Egon Schiele. Trans. Michael Hulse. N.p.: Benedikt Taschen, 1995. Print.

“German Expressionism: Works from the Collection.” MoMA: The Collection. Museum of Modern Art, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.



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