Egon Schiele: more current than ever on the centenary of his death

If the Austrian Egon Schiele was already a groundbreaking painter who opened the door of expressionism, today, a hundred years after his death on October 31, 1918, his art is still as current as it was then, as shown by an exhibition that puts him face to face with contemporary artists.

That is the proposal made by the Leopold Museum in Vienna with an update of “Egon Schiele Anniversary Exhibition”, a sample that since it was inaugurated last February has already been visited by 400,000 people.

A figure that makes it “the most successful exhibition in the history of Leopold to date,” explains the director of this museum, Hans-Peter Wipplinger.

For this reason, and taking advantage of the centenary of his death on October 31, the museum has decided to extend it for four months, until next February, and add works by contemporary artists to certify that Schiele is still as current as when it revolutionized the Vienna of the early twentieth century.

Thus, nine artists, from cities such as London, New York, Paris and Amsterdam, “establish an exciting dialogue with the timeless works of Schiele”, says Wipplinger.

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The museum juxtaposes each of the works of these artists with different Schiele themes, such as the representation of the ego, the relationship with the mother or spirituality.

For example, the photographs of the German Jürgen Klauke, in which he uses his own body to project different identities and a hybrid sexuality, are contrasted with the famous self-portraits in which Schiele seeks his identity by looking at his own body.

This exhibition houses a total of 65 paintings, 70 drawings on paper and a set of photographs, documents, and manuscripts that help to better understand the work of the author.

During their tour, visitors can take a trip through their different and numerous artistic stages.

And is that, despite dying with only 28 years, a victim of the so-called Spanish flu, this referent of expressionist painting made more than 4,000 drawings in his short life.

Among his works, without a doubt, the painting “Houses with colorful clothes hanging” stands out, which in 2011 was auctioned in London for 40 million dollars, his most valuable canvas.

The exposed works show the different themes that Schiele was addressing.

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Thus, examples of his well-known self-portraits can be seen, in which the artist twists his body, the nude scenes of high erotic content or urban scenes of Ceský Krumlov, the small bohemian city of his mother’s native.

Eroticism and sexuality are some of the most recurrent themes throughout his work. A constant theme that in his time caused enormous scandal and incomprehension and that, a hundred years later, remains controversial.

So much so that last November, the London Underground and several German cities censored posters of tourist promotion in Vienna announcing the anniversary of Schiele with two of his most famous paintings of nudes.

Vienna Tourism reacted by placing a band that covered the genitals with the slogan “We are sorry, 100 years old but still too daring for today, to art their freedom”.

The scandal provoked by Schiele in Vienna, the capital of the Habsburg Empire at the beginning of the 20th century, remains so in the modern metropolis of the 21st century. His art is still as current as it was then.

The exhibition at the Leopold is one of the many events with which Austria is commemorating this centenary.

Among them, the exhibition “Egon Schiele, The Creation of a Collection” stands out, in which the Belvedere Museum analyzes the history of the 20 pieces of the painter with which you count your funds, explaining the history behind the paintings, from its creation to how they ended being your property.

For this sample, the Schiele paintings have been subjected to a rigorous examination with x-rays, ultraviolet radiation and micro and macroscopic photographs, which have yielded new information about the creative techniques of the painter.

To help the visitor in his discovery of Shiele, the museum has prepared an augmented reality system.