Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele (1890–1918) was born in Tulin, Austria, and took an immediate interest in drawing. He filled his sketchbooks with trains, which his father – Tulin’s railway station master – discouraged by destroying them. At 16, not long after his father died of syphilis, Schiele left for Vienna to study at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Frustrated with his professors, Schiele dropped out and sought the mentorship of Gustav Klimt, who helped him exhibit in Vienna at 19. Schiele quickly turned to the nude as his preferred subject, both in self-portraits and with models. Bringing an early expressionist sensibility to the flesh, his eerie, elongated, sickly-colored paintings radicalized the nude. Though much of his work was, predictably, defamed as pornographic, he maintained, presciently, that “Erotics works of art are also sacred.” In 1918, Schiele and his pregnant wife, Edith, both contracted Spanish flu and died three days apart. He was 28.