Sunday, November 18, 2007

Familial bliss?

This picture was painted in 1918, the year of Schiele’s death. Although unfinished, it has still endured one important change: in earlier versions, a bouquet of flowers stood in the place of the child, probably added when he learnt that his wife Edith was pregnant.

Although the male figure is instantly recognisable as Schiele, the woman is not his wife, making the change of the flowers for a baby rather strange. Originally known as Squatting Couple, it was renamed The Family after the artist’s death.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Leopold Czihazcek - the guardian

Czihaczek was Egon's uncle and became his guardian after Egon's father, Adolf, died of syphilis. Czihaczek had one desire: to make a decent man out of Egon. More sepcifically, this meant that Egon had to take up a job on the Imperial railways, as indeed Czihaczek and his father had done. Egon, of course, revolted against this in pursuit of art until Czihaczek finally turned off the tap and refused to support the boy.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Trcka: The Photographer

Anton Josef Trcka did more than anyone else to perpetuate the image we have of Schiele. He was a revolutionary in the relatively new medium of photography, pushing the boundaries and creating a true art form. Schiele was second only to Rembrandt in the number of self-portraits he produced and we know from his myriad works that he was obsessed with his own image.

But we only have this image through the artist’s own eyes. Trcka’s talent is that – through a completely different art form – he has captured that same Schiele: a tortured, self-obsessed artist; the wide eyes, the sharp fingers, the posing. Magical.

Trcka was born in Vienna in 1893 and died in 1940. He was friends with Schiele and Gustav Klimt. He also went under the pseudonym of “Antios” as you can see in the photo's bottom left hand corner. His work as a poet, sculptor is less well-known, but his photos of Schiele and Klimt are timeless.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Egoist

In a few days HNA books will be publishing The Egoist by Jean-Louis Gailleman. It's a welcome look at Schiele from the point of view of his self-obsession. Gailleman is a professor at Paris' Sorbonne University and one of today's leading commentators on the period. From a cursory glance through a preliminiary copy it seems to cover all the well-known narcissistic paintings while also unearthing a few unknown (or less well-known) portraits. When the majority of spectators enjoy Schiele for his representations of women, girls, prostitutes and street-life, it is worth being reminded of the intriguing egotism behind his work and inspiration. Rarely was there an artist so obsessed with his own image; that can be seen more than anything in his posing for photographer and friend Anton Trcka as well as in the infamous Red Host and its towering erection. Although this book is published in the "Discoveries" series, there is little that is new in there, but that shouldn't stop you from buying it. It's a decently priced, well-presented work.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Egon Schiele 1890-1918

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Mario Vargas Llosa in his novel The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto (Los Cuadernos de Don Rigoberto) creates a young character who is obsessed with the life of Egon Schiele. This boy - on the cusp of adolescence - believes his is a modern incarnation of the painter and waxes lyrical about Schiele's (and his own) twisted sexuality. In amongst all of Llosa's posturing, the boy mentions that in nearly all the images ever made by Schiele there is not a single prominent thumb. While we all know Schiele's inimitable representations of arthritic hands, he nearly always hides the thumbs (see posting below: Fingers Contrived). It seems that there could be nothing uglier for his rachitic figures than a plump, podgy thumb.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Pornographer of Vienna

It seems that we Schiele-lovers have a new work to look forward to - something to add to those coffee-table Taschens we all possess. Entitled The Pornographer of Vienna, this novel by will be published in May 2007 by Old Street Publishing, according to Irrespective of the content, personally, I welcome the choice of Frau in schwarzen Struempfen (1913) for the cover. Valerie has rarely looked better.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Egon's life-long friend: Arthur Roessler

The customary yet contorted pose does not tell the whole story. This is a picture of Arthur Roessler, publisher, supporter and friend to Egon Schiele. While rarely suffering such hardships as Schiele, he still undoubtedly suffered from his connection to the artist. Nevertheless, he became one of the most avid collectors of the artists work and sought to support him in all the clandestine compostions of Vienna society which needed to be appeased before any artist to become a success. Better than Max Brod to Kafka, Roessler remained the faithful and largely unsung hero behind the perpetuation of Schiele's work.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fingers contrived

One of the most original contributions to the visual arts came from Schiele: his representation of hands. Starting with his boney, jagged fingers in the photos taken by his friend Josef Trcka (see my profile picture on the right) to the arthritic claws of his later paintings. Schiele saw something frail yet predatory about human hands: a fragile interconnection of bones that lok snappable but threatening, which could break like a twig or strangle in an instant. While El Greco may have started this in the 16th century, Schiele has been the only artist to see in hands the story of a painting itself, the human condition.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Best Schiele of all?

So, which painting is the best of all? Is it his self-portraits of anguished disfigurement? Is it his bleak landscapes with arthritic branches? Or is it the tortured and faceless female nude that haunts those solitary paintings? Post your suggestions, please! My own favourite: it won't surprise you to hear that it is not the Sunflowers recently sold at Christies but rather the brittle love of Friendship above.