Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Egon Schiele Leopold Museum Vienna

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I have always liked the quirky energetic lines in the drawings and painting of Austrian artist Egon Schiele, although some artworks tend to have an epileptic feel that I find mildly disturbing. Still, there is an honesty and a humanity in his works that cannot be denied. I was thrilled to be able to visit the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria, to see the real paintings.

The museum says it best:

The pictorial device that Schiele first made his own and with which he proved his mastery was the personal line, whereby he developed the strategies of accentuating and omitting to a high art. Like no other artist of his day, Schiele succeeded in using drawing alone – and here often nothing more than an outline – to communicate not only formal situations and their spatiality, but also emotions.

It goes on to say that he is also a gifted colorist, whose choices accent the emotions in the line. He has not simply filled-in pre-defined spaces.

The Leopold Museum was opened in 2001 in Vienna, Austria, and houses the previously private art collection of Rudolph and Elisabeth Leopold, including the largest collection in the world of the artworks of Egon Schiele.

Egon Schiele died at the age of 28 on Halloween Day from the Spanish flu in 1918, three days after his 6-month pregnant wife succumbed. He had recently received the career jump that most artists strive for. So many losses.

Rudolph Leopold was born in 1925 in Vienna. He studied medicine before he began attending art history lectures and beginning his art collection. He focused on Austrian artists as well as many others, but especially liked the works of the late Egon Schiele. He collected earnestly, enabled perhaps because Egon Schiele was not considered important by art historians at the time. Mr. Leopold began to promote his artists, finally gaining them the recognition they deserved. Today, The Leopold Museum is one of the most visited ones in Vienna.

Before visiting Vienna, I was most familiar with the erotic artworks and the self-portraits of Egon Schiele. However, in the museum, I came to appreciate his entire body of work even more, especially the landscapes. The painting, shown here, of the building with the hanging laundry is one of my favorites. I love how the light emphasizes the point of interest near the center. I enjoyed the subtle colors and shapes depicting the tiles on each rooftop. It was especially interesting to see a small photograph displayed to the left of the original painting that shows the real building that inspired the art. This enhanced my appreciation to see for myself how one brilliant artist interpreted the world around him.

Artists learn a lot by copying the works of other artists. And as difficult as it is to try to repeat the thoughts and actions of another person exactly, it is even more difficult to conceive a fresh original composition. For example, in the self-portrait shown at the top of this blog post, note that the background on the right is not just a white shape. An angular grey shape and the artist’s distinctive signature break up the white form. Was there a window behind the artist? It is not clearly a window, and the grey is close enough to the white in tone that it remains in the background, never distracting from the figure. Yet, I would argue that this composition is more interesting because of these additions.

More on The Leopold Museum next time . . .

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Casey Klahn said...

I never knew Schiele did landscapes. I favor this one, with the up-intensity "window" in the middle and the laundry line. That is a great device, and he was a great artist.

Akhat said...

It's a pity you have little number of pictures here, and they are low resolution )

alan said...

Hi Kelly

I recently came across your blog as I was today just given a book of Schiele by a loved one,as I expressed in him.

I too was lucky to visit the Leopold Museum in July 2009 and I was blown away by what I saw.
I am not a fine art scholar by any means and I did go becuase I wanted to see some Klimt but i really wasn't prepared for Schiele.

The painting of the laundry really was my favourite. The vivid colours totally blew me away. I suppose it's the first real time I have been truly moved by a piece of fine art.

Anyway thanks for sharing

Kelly Borsheim said...

Thanks everyone. And Akhat, I have larger images, but not wanting to put a huge image on the Web. However, I was not supposed to be taking any photographs in that museum, so feel lucky that I was able to get what I did.
Alan, thank you for your thoughtful admission of such a wonderful response to an artwork. This is such an elusive business that we artists are in and it is an incredible thing when we are lucky enough to touch someone in a good and unexpected way.
I am happy to share what I see and learn from those before and around me. Thanks again, guys.