Thursday, January 13, 2011


Still reading Jane Kallir's book on Egon Schiele. 

I find it interesting that Egon is known mostly for his erotic work, when there is so much more to him than that.  But, perhaps it was his scandalous incarceration that caused him to have this reputation. 

In 1912, Egon was 22 and was openly living with his 18-year-old model, Wally (Valerie Neuzil).  The locals were not pleased.  A model was seen as just one step away from a prostitute, and while it was expected that a young man sow his wild oats with prostitutes/models, a decent man did not set up house with them.  Egon's problems came to a head when he 1) began using children of middle-class families as his models, and 2) had a young girl develop a crush on him and begin following him around.  This young girl, the daughter of a retired naval officer, rhe ran away from home, coming to Egon and Wally for help.  Egon and Wally took her from the local village to her grandmother's home in Vienna.  Along the way, the girl changed her mind.  Egon and Wally took her back to the village (after an overnight stay at a hotel).  There is no indication that anything sexual happened between the girl and Egon.  But his reputation preceded him and everyone thought the worst.  The girl's father filed charges of kidnapping and rape against Egon, the police raided Egon's studio (finding his erotic works) and he was charged with public immorality (apparently, private immorality was accepted but not public). 

Kept in jail for 17 days before sentencing, Egon was tried and found guilty of the morality offense (kidnapping and rape charges were dropped), and the judge gave Egon 3 more days.  His total confinement was 20 days jail time served. 

Egon was devastated.  He could not believe he was jailed for such a charge because of a young girl who caused all the problem.  (However, one wonders why Egon and Wally travelled with her to Vienna to take her to her grandmother's house without informing the girl's father what was going on.  One also wonders why they never went to the grandmother's just because the girl changed her mind - also without informing anyone what they were doing.)

So...Egon spends 20 days in jail.  Wally visits and brings him art materials and he draws and paints in jail (although the paintings are of Egon lying on his bunk, he insisted on showing them as verticals, and signed them as such). 

Being jailed for public immorality caused Egon to change some things in his life:  he and Wally became emotionally closer; Egon stopped drawing children unless they were accompanied by their mothers; and Egon's paintings and drawings of female figures became less erotic.  

After the turmoil of 1912, the next year was fairly calm, although no more prosperous.  Egon made big plans to paint large canvases in oil, working on allegories and religious subjects.  But those canvases were never finished (due to lack of funds, lack of backers and potential buyers for such work, or the large size was just too unwieldy to work on in his small studio space).  Egon had one solo show in 1913 but the dealer then ended his representation of Egon a few month's later, saying his works were unsalable. 

By the end of 1914, Egon sees his favorite sister (and sometimes model), Gerti, marry an artist (whom Egon did not like) and have a child.  This alone caused Egon to question his own direction in life and his immaturity.  Also, World War I began, with many of Egon's contemporaries called up for service.  The author tells us that, at this time, Egon's debt is as much as the annual income of a prosperous working-class family. 

Egon, now 24, begins to think about settling down, finding a socially acceptable wife, and doing something to get out from under his debt.  He begins to be more proactive about his career.


Peggy Stermer-Cox said...

Hi! I'm finding your writing about Egon Schiele interesting. Funny how impractical we are when we're young!

jgr said...

Yes, I am enjoying your tales about Egon-
Have a good day!

Christiane Kingsley said...

Very interesting. I am not at all familiar with Egon Schiele's work...I will do a little bit of research on him. Thank you!

RH Carpenter said...

Thanks, Peggy, Jane and Christiane. I enjoy reading about the lives of artists - what they were like, if the struggled or had an easy path, who they loved and hated :)

Irina said...

Thank you for your story. I doubt I will have time to read the book on my own, great to get it short but concentrated from friends' blog.

hw (hallie) farber said...

Hi Rhonda. My Schiele book was one of three that arrived today--I spent several hours looking at the pictures; I especially love his drawings. This is great; I can look at the pictures and just follow your blog.

RH Carpenter said...

Irina, I'm glad you're enjoying this little taste of this very interesting artist.

Hallie, I love looking at the pictures, too. Can you imagine that many paintings and drawings in such a short time? He must have been obsessed with creating art and one wonders what was lost (or destroyed since I think he destroyed many works after his time in jail).