By 1909, Egon Schiele started to paint portraits. In his use of non-naturalistic colour and unusual angles, these portraits already highlight Schiele’s unique vision, for example, ‘Standing Female Nude with Crossed Arms’ (1910). As well as Gustav Klimt, the influences of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh can be seen in this early work. In 1912 Schiele was briefly imprisoned charged with indecency due to the explicit nature of his paintings.
With the outbreak of the First World War, he was enlisted to serve in the Austrian Army and could not continue his painting whilst in military service. Egon Schiele died in the influenza epidemic of 1918.
Egon Schiele’s paintings, whether portraits, self-portraits or nudes convey a sense of both the physical and the emotional. His numerous self-portraits, frequently adopting awkward sexual postures, seem to suggest a profound unease with the body and distress at its limitations. His use of striking colours and linear technique help create this feeling of anxiety. In his most powerful portrayals of the male and female form the figures express in their postures, and in his use of pencil, gouache or watercolour, emotions from despair through to passion.
Egon Schiele received a certain amount of success in his lifetime, but his work was not truly appreciated outside of Austria until the Sixties when it was agreed that he was one of the most important exponents of Expressionism.