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    SCHIELE, Egon  

EGON SCHIELE, austrian painter (1890-1918)

Egon Schiele was born June 12, 1890, to Marie and Adolph Schiele in Tullin, a small town on the Austrian Danube where Adolph was stationmaster. Egon had two older sisters - Elvira (who lived only ten years) and Melanie - and one younger sister, Gertie, to whom he was the closest in his childhood.

Adolph Schiele had contracted syphilis prior to his marriage which led to his progressive insanity and subsequently his death when Egon was fifteen years old. Egon became a ward of his uncle, who, though distressed by Egon's lack of interest in academic studies, recognized his passion and talent for art. Egon was accepted into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts at the age of sixteen.

Unfortunately, he found the curriculum to be too restrictive and antiquated, and was frequently at odds with his professors. This situation led to his departure from the Academy in 1909 with numerous colleges who established their own artistic circle known as the "Neukunstgruppe." By this time Schiele was already participating in public exibitions and was well aquainted with Gustav Klimt, who was both an inspiration and a friend to him throughout his life.

Once free of the constraints of the Academy, Schiele's work became centered on the exploration of self. His associations with Mime van Osen- a Viennese performance artist of great acclaim who modelled for Schiele- marks the beginning of an ever increasing freedom in his work to portray not just the human form, but human sexuality, with an explictness that many found shocking.

Wally Neuzil, one of Egon's models, became his lover and close companion. Together they moved to Neulengbach, a suburb of Vienna, seeking a bucolic setting and an inexpensive studio space in which to work. Their unconventional lifestyle, however, was not appreciated by the more conservative townspeople.

Schiele was imprisoned for twenty-four days after being falsely accused of seducing a minor. This charge was eventually dropped, but he was found guilty of "disseminating pornographic art" to children. This unjust incarceration had a devastating effect on Schiele; he sought tranformation through a feverish devotion to his work.

In 1915, Schiele married Edith Harms, who lived with her parents across the street from his studio. This change necessitated the termination of his four year relationship with the ever faithful Wally. A few days after the wedding, Schiele was inducted into the army. Austria shielded its cultural elite from dangerous duty, sparing Schiele from combat; nevertheless, it was a rocky beginning for a marriage paring such differing sensibilities.

In spite of the war, Schiele was able to pursue his artisitic endeavors. Indeed, his output was prodigious-, his work reflecting the maturity of an artist in full commmand of his talents. The Vienna Secession Show of 1918, where Schile exhibited in the main hall and for which he had designed the poster, brought him great success. During the last year of his life he also had successful shows in Zurich, Prague, and Dresden.

At the end of 1918, the influenza epidemic that claimed over twenty million lives worldwide reached Vienna. Edith, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to it on October 28th, followed three days later by Egon. He was twenty-eight years old.
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