After Egon Schiele (1890-1918) freed himself from the shadow of his mentor and role model Gustav Klimt, he had just ten years to inscribe his signature style into the annals of modernity before the Spanish flu claimed his life. Being a child prodigy quite aware of his own genius and a passionate provocateur, this didn’t prove to be too big a challenge.
His haggard, overstretched figures, extreme depiction of sexuality and self-portraits, in which he staged himself with emaciated facial expressions bordering between brilliance and madness, had none of the decorative quality of Klimt’s hymns of love, sexuality and yearning devotion. Instead, Schiele’s work spoke of a brutal honesty, one that would upset and irreversibly change Viennese society.
Although his works were later defamed as “degenerate” and for a time were almost forgotten altogether, they influenced generations of artists-from Günter Brus and Francis Bacon to Tracey Emin. Today, his then misunderstood oeuvre continues to fetch exorbitant prices on the international art market.