Austrian Painter who became Worldwide Famous: Egon Schiele

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Egon Leo Adolf Ludwig Schiele (1890–1918) was an Austrian Expressionist painter who became worldwide famous. However, on a personal level, he had a “strange” life, and as an artist, he also struggled to get acknowledged at the beginning of his career.  

However, he is now famous for his paintings’ intensity and raw sexuality. He is also well-known for all the self-portraits he produced. His self-portraits even include nude studies.

In this article, we’ll first have a brief look at Egon Schiele’s interesting personal life story and then discuss all of Egon Schiele’s art and the artworks which have made him famous internationally. 

The Egon Schiele Life Story – First 13 Years

Egon Schiele was born in Austria in the small town of Tulln in 1890. Because his father was Tully’s station master for the Austrian State Railways, Schiele literally grew up with trains. From a tender age, he spent time drawing various trains. His father tried without success to get him interested in other activities. He even destroyed Egon’s sketchbooks with all the train sketches. 

Egon moved to Krems at 11 years old and later to Klosterneuburg to attend secondary school. He did not do well academically at school and was always a shy and reserved child. His peers and teachers described him as a “strange” child, mainly in classes with younger pupils. Although his school work was not standard, he loved to draw and participated successfully in athletics. 

The Egon Schiele Life Story – From 14 to 21 Years of Age

On a personal level, Schiele displayed strange behavior as a teenager. For instance, he displayed incestuous tendencies toward his younger sister Gertrude. Later, when he was sixteen, he took his 12-year-old sister without permission to Trieste and spent a night in a hotel with her.

Schiele’s father died when he was 14 years old, and went to live with his maternal uncle Leopold Czihaczek. Leopold recognized Schiele’s drawing talent and allowed Egon to be tutored by a known artist, Ludwig Karl Strauch. 

In 1906 Schiele started with art studies at the “Kunstgewerbeschule” (“School of Arts and Crafts”) in Vienna. However, within his first year at the “Kunstgewerbeschule,” some of the school faculty members advised him to move on to the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste.” This Viennese Academy offered a more traditional art education. However, he was frustrated with his teachers and left after three years. 

Schiele met Gustav Klimt while he was still at the “Akademie.” Klimt immediately took an interest in the young artist. He started to buy some of Egon Schiele paintings and drawings and helped him to get models. He also introduced him to potential patrons. 

The Egon Schiele Life Story – From 1911 until his Death

Egon Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Walburga (Wally) Neuzil in 1911 and used her as a model for many of his paintings. After a while, they started to live together in Vienna.

Because Schiele and Wally felt “claustrophobic” in Vienna, they “escaped” from Vienna to the small town of Krumau in southern Bohemia, where his mother grew up. However, after a short stay in Krumau, he and Wally were driven out of the town because the residents didn’t agree with either their lifestyle or his artwork. 

The couple then moved to Neulengbach. There, the police arrested him for seducing a young girl of 13. They also seized more than a hundred drawings that they considered pornographic. However, he was only found guilty of showing erotic paintings and drawings in places that were accessible to children, and he was in prison for 25 days. He used those days to create a series of 12 paintings depicting the discomfort of being locked in a jail cell.

He met and married Edith Harms in 1915, and Wally left him. In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic reached Austria and Edith died of the disease on 28 October. Egon Schiele died only three days after her, but he was still actively creating artwork during those three days. In the few days between Edith’s death and his own, he drew quite a few sketches of Edith. 

All about Egon Schiele’s Art

Schiele’s work is generally known for its raw sexuality and intensity. Twisted body shapes characterize Egon Schiele’s paintings and drawings. The way he depicts bodies is one of the indicators that he is an early Expressionist. The early Egon Schiele art – created between 1907 and 1909 – has many similarities with Klimt’s work. However, it also shows influences from Art Nouveau. 

In 1908 artist Schiele had his first exhibition in Klosterneuburg, and in 1909 he and other dissatisfied students of the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” founded the “Neukunstgruppe” (“New Art Group”). Once free of the Academy’s conventions, Schiele began to explore the human form and human sexuality. He also started to include Klimt’s decorative eroticism in his works. 

In 1910, Schiele began experimenting with nudes, and within one year, he had developed a definitive style. From this period onward, you also find more and more depictions of children in some of Egon Schiele paintings. He also painted many self-portraits during this time. His self-portrait, “Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands” (1910), is regarded by art scholars as one of the most significant nude studies of the 20th century.

Schiele regarded drawing as his primary art form and created about 3,000 drawings. He is regarded as one of the best draughtsmen of the 1900s. But although he is internationally famous for his drawings, his most expensive work to date is one of his townscape paintings, “Houses with Laundry (Seeburg).” It was sold at Sotheby’s for $40.1 million. 


Egon Schiele was born in a small town in Austria and, as the child of a railway station master, started his “art career” by drawing trains. Nowadays, his artworks are housed in many art museums worldwide, and he is regarded as one of the most significant artists of the 1900s.

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