“At present, I am mainly observing the physical motion of mountains, water, trees and flowers. One is everywhere reminded of similar movements in the human body, of similar impulses of joy and suffering in plants."
It's curious that in Vienna, a place that has been the epicenter of several artistic movements, you can’t seem to get away from the gazes of several women, Klimt’s women that is. Whether it’s a gift shop, the Belvedere gallery, or even at a street café, you’re certain to bump into one of these glamour girls. There’s another famous Austrian artist who was based in Vienna and was even mentored by Gustav Klimt, but it’s unlikely that you’ll find his work on a souvenir mug.
His name is Egon Schiele, and he was one of the most groundbreaking artists to not shy away from using raw sensuality as a focus of his pieces. Each of his drawings, which seem to break away from the classic style in favor for a more modern perception, alludes to female sexuality as it is. There’s no romance or idealism attached. You see nudity almost as you would in real life. However, the artist did not only take inspiration from women; he would also do self-portraits of his naked self with an unapologetic expression that would’ve been scandalous for the times.
According to various accounts, Schiele was an outsider even in the artsy city where he was trained. Unlike his contemporaries, his sexual desires were not something he kept behind closed doors. He was even imprisoned for a time for engaging in a relationship with a 17 year-old girl when he was 21. When the police came to arrest him, they confiscated several of his drawings for being seen as pornographic. Nonetheless, Schiele’s love for his work was such that even while in jail, as he waited for trial, he continued to draw.
He even drew his wife Edith as both of them succumbed to illness. Schiele died at the young age of 28, yet his body of work is so prolific that it would appear he lived a full life instead of it being cut short due to a bout of Spanish Flu in 1918 that took both him and his pregnant wife.
Schiele’s work shows us that our art might not be understood always by the people of our time. But if we continue, we might be able to transcend our lifetime and find an audience who could understand both our peculiarities and our passion.