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Although he passed away at the early age of 28 years old, Egon Schiele is one of the most expressive artists of the turn of the XIX century. Born in June of 1890 in Tulln an der Donau, also known as the city of flowers, in lower Austria, the young man quickly developed a talent and interest in art. Schiele’s father didn’t approve that he spent hours drawing and it is known that he came to a point where he destroyed one of his son's sketchbooks filled with drawings of trains - one of his early interests. His father was diagnosed with syphilis and passed away when Schiele was 15. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about school, only exceeding in athletics, and was referred by his colleagues as an awkward and reserved person. His maternal uncle got custody of the young artist, wishing that Schiele would join him in his profession as a railway official, following the footsteps of his father as well. He tried to pursued young Schiele but was forced to recognize his immense talent, ultimately putting him with an art teacher; Ludwig Karl Strauch.
In 1906, the Austrian artist began studying at the prestigious School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna, but during his first year was transferred to the Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, a much more conservative Academy. Dissatisfied with the strict parameters of Classic painting, Schiele came in contact with Gustav Klimt, who mentored other young artists in the past, and became compelled by Schiele’s work. Because of Klimt, Schiele now had contact with models, museums, and possible patrons for his work. Although Schiele always had a unique style of drawing and painting, the influence of Klimt, as well as Oskar Kokoschka, are visible in his early works, especially from 1907 to 1909. The Austrian artist founded the New Art Group, or Klosterneuburg, along with other colleagues who left the Academy as well. In 1909, Schiele came in contact with works of other remarkable artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and Jan Toorop in 1909 while exhibiting at the Vienna Kunstschau, under Klimt’s invitation. The painter was especially inspired by Van Gogh, painting a tribute to his sunflowers, as well as Schieles Room in Neulengbach.
Schiele painted landscapes and still lifes, but was especially drawn to the human form. He explored the shapes, playing with the distortion of the body while freely delving into themes of sexuality. His art brings subjects the question conventional ideas of gender, sexuality, and beauty - which shocked society at the time. In 1911, Schiele fell in love when he met one of Klimt’s previous models, Walburga Neuzil, also known as Wally, who was seventeen years old. They moved together to Schiele’s mother’s hometown in southern Bohemia but were eventually forced to leave because of the town’s conservative view on their lifestyle. By this period, the painter’s work was becoming more complex and existential. The couple moved to the larger city of Neulengbach but faced the same resistance as before. Because the artist worked with underaged models, the town’s rejection of his lifestyle led him to be arrested in 1912. The police took hundreds of drawings from his studio claiming they were pornographic. Schiele spent about a month in jail and produced a small series of paintings while incarcerated.
In an attempt to better his reputation, Schiele planned to marry a woman of a respected family, but still see Wally in secret. When he told his lover about his plans to marry Edith Harm, she was deeply hurt and left never to come back again, which caused him great pain resulting in the painting Death and the Maiden. Despite the strong family opposition, the couple still got married in 1915. For the next two years, Schiele would serve in the military during World War I, and was able to continue producing during this period. In 1918, Edith was six months pregnant and died after being contaminated by the Spanish flu. Schiele did a few sketches of his loved one and passed away only three days later.