• Egon Schiele, Selbstbildnis mit Lampionfrüchten, 1912

    Egon Schiele and his Beautiful, Melancholy Landscapes

    27,6 Million Euro – that was the highest-ever bid for a Schiele painting at Sotheby's in London. The painting in question was not one of his famous nudes, but a landscape. Egon Schiele is mainly known for his sometimes bizarre portraits and figures. Currently, however, it is his landscapes that receive the most attention among art connoisseurs.

    Landscapes with Emotions

    View over Krems and the Danube / Krems

    Egon Leo Adolf Ludwig Schiele was born in 1890 in the small town of Tulln on the Danube near Vienna. It is a picture-perfect region: terraced vineyards, churches with onion-domed roofs and glorious Baroque abbeys with views of the Danube form beautiful landscapes. This idyllic setting is hardly recognisable in Schiele’s oeuvre. The opposite is the case. Some of his works convey a melancholy gravity. Perhaps Schiele’s way to express his grief over the early death of his father. At the time, Egon was only 14 years old and his father’s death deeply affected him.

    In 1913, the artist wrote to his friend and brother-in-law, Anton Peschka: „[...] I don’t know who can understand why I seek those locations where my father was, where I purposely experience the pain in those hours so melancholy to me. [...] this memory, more or less entwined, I carry within me.“ Or was it the intention to break with the school of traditional, ornate painting and forge new, avant-gardist paths? After all, it was his goal to overcome the Makart-epoch with its historic opulence, which was decried as pompous by the progressive painter.

    Often, you’ll see rows of houses, with buildings stacked one after the other, crooked streets, roof-scapes or river-bank views of small towns along rivers like the Danube. But he also found inspiration in green mountains, light-flooded woods and fall-coloured trees. None of these paintings show people, which often gives them a lonely, abandoned, even slightly morbid feel. Schiele’s landscapes add an important dimension to his oeuvre: The decision to either paint a landscape or a figure is truly unique.

    Verena Gamper, Curator at the Leopold Museum, goes so far as to say that his landscapes are arranged like portraits: „He gives landscapes, trees and flowers human characteristics. Even city-scapes have a strong organic connotation. They don’t just show conventional buildings with clear lines and edges.“ She also explains that his nature depictions often emphasise the cyclical nature of life, by incorporating wilted flowers, bare trees or the setting sun.

    He preferred to highlight the melancholy and declared: „Deeply and with body and soul one experiences the autumn tree in summer, and it is this melancholy that I want to paint.“ This is why his paintings mostly feature a brown colour scheme, are arranged in small sections and have completed backgrounds. All his works have one thing in common: They are full of emotion and often betray a tortured soul.

    Portraits and Figures

    His depictions of the human body are painted in bright colours, generously, and with a neutral background. Often sketch-like, Schiele is focussed on contours.

    •                         Leopold Museum Vienna - Egon Schiele / Leopold Museum Vienna

      Self-Portrait with Striped Shirt, 1910

      Leopold Museum Vienna
    •                         Egon Schiele, Porträt Wally Neuzil, 1912

      Portrait Wally Neuzil, 1912

      Leopold Museum Vienna

    The Beginnings

    Egon Schiele (umjetnik), željeznica (dječji crtež), oko 1900.

    Fascination with Trains

    Egon’s first favourite motif was trains. Small wonder, as the son of a station master, grew up in a world filled with trains and locomotives. They influenced his art at a very early age. The family lived in an apartment above the train station in Tulln, which enabled the young Schiele to watch the trains directly from his window and he spent hours drawing them.

    Even as a little child, drawing and painting were his favourite pastimes. This passion continued during his time in school and seems to have negatively influenced his grades. He painted during lessons, which his teachers did not approve of.

    Egon Schiele, Häuser auf dem Klosterneuburger Rathausplatz, 1908

    School in Klosterneuburg

    At 12 years of age, he attended high school in Klosterneuburg. There he met the art teacher Ludwig Karl Strauch, who recognised and supported his talent. In Schiele’s time, Klosterneuburg had an active art scene which he had access to through Strauch.

    Schiele dove into this new world and forged connections with other artists. During his time in Klosterneuburg from 1902 to 1906, his wish to become a painter intensified.

    Egon Schiele, Stadt Stein II, 1913

    Wachau Valley

    As a grown-up, Schiele no longer painted trains. He was not a great traveller, but his love of trains nevertheless stayed with him. He took several trips to the Wachau Valley and painted the series of Stein an der Donau. The Wachau Valley became synonymous with a yearning for his childhood. He spent one school year in Krems and took long walks through the vineyards.

    When one gets on a train to the Wachau Valley from Vienna’s Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof, one can see the region Schiele grew up in, and even make a stop in Tulln to visit his birthplace and the Schiele Museum.

    Small Towns, Dark and Empty

    Egon Schiele, Mödling II, 1918, Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 243487, CC BY 4.0

    Schiele’s landscapes comprise many depictions of medieval small towns. Aside from the Czech Krumau, the birthplace of his mother, we see a lot of villages from Lower Austria. They attest to the strong connection with his hometown and his preference for towns with rural character.

    Schiele paints his towns almost like a landscape designer. This comes as no surprise as he said of himself: „If I weren’t a painter, [...] I would most like to be a builder”.

    spring in Wienerwald region

    Over the course of his life, he kept choosing small towns: first Krumau, then Neulengbach in the Vienna Woods (Lower Austria). The “Wienerwald” is, and always has been, a region with gently rolling hills, wooded slopes and small villages amid green landscapes, yet not too far away from Vienna. A plus that seems to have resonated with Schiele in his search for a better quality of life.

    This was his refuge where he could enjoy nature and work in peace, away from the noise of the big city. In a letter to his uncle, he penned the following words: „[…] I intend to stay here forever, to complete great works here […].“ During this time, he created important works such as „Eremiten“, „Rabenlandschaft“ or „Trauernde Frau“, as well as many strong landscapes and tree portraits such as the „Herbstbaum in bewegter Luft.“

    Sexual liberation instead of bourgeois prudishness


    Studies in Vienna

    At the age of 16, Schiele came to Vienna, to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He soon lost interest in the conservative teaching methods, however, and his professor, Christian Griepenkerl, was equally unimpressed by his student: „For goodness sakes, do not tell anyone that you were my student!“ So the young painter left the academy after three years and founded the artist collective „Neukunstgruppe“ with a few of his fellow students.

    In Vienna, he met some of the most important people in his life: He made the acquaintance of his idol, Gustav Klimt, he met his friend and muse Wally Neuzil as well as his later wife, Edith Harms.


    Freedom from Constraints

    The cultural upheaval was the hallmark of Viennese Modernism, as artists turned away from bourgeois prudishness and embraced the liberation from moral constraints. The excitable atmosphere in Vienna was the background in which Sigmund Freud wrote his „Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie,“ and which enabled Schiele to develop his expressionist style which made him one of the most provocative masters of his time.

    In 1912, the Neue Presse wrote: „His aberrations have to be some of the most disgusting on display in Vienna so far.” The grotesque creatures and nudes - male as well as female - were shocking. Schiele, however, remained convinced of his path: „Even erotic art has something sacred.”


    When Egon Schiele died in 1918 of the Spanish flu in Vienna at the age of 28, he left behind a significant graphic oeuvre. He was on his way to achieving some long-desired recognition and had prophesied with confidence: „After I die, sooner or later, people will surely praise me and admire my work.“

    His paintings and graphic works are sold at record prices at international auctions. The largest Schiele collection worldwide is located at the Leopold Museum, with other significant holdings at the Albertina and the Belvedere.

    Schiele in Vienna’s Museums

    Leopold Museum

    The world’s largest and most significant Egon-Schiele-collection

    Leopold Museum Vienna

    With 42 paintings, 184 watercolours, drawings and prints as well as numerous autographs and varia, the Leopold Museum at Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier is home to the world’s largest and most important Egon-Schiele-Collection.

    It is part of the permanent exhibition Vienna 1900 - Birth of Modernism, which offers comprehensive insights into the fascinating world of Vienna around 1900 with masterpieces by Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Koloman Moser as well as the works of the Wiener Werkstätte.

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    •                         The Albertina Museum


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    •                         Belvedere Palace, Vienna


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    3 locations that bring Schiele’s works to life

    • Egon Schiele, Stein an der Donau i Stein an der Donau

      1. Stein at the Danube near Krems

      Several times, Egon Schiele travelled to the Wachau valley where he created several studies of Stein an der Donau.

    • Egon Schiele, Na Dunavskom kanalu, 1907. i Dunavski kanal danas

      2. The Danube Canal in Vienna

      This painting was most likely created in the summer of 1907.

    • Egon Schiele, The Abbey Carpentry, 1907 and the Abbey Carpentry (Klosterneuburg Abbey) today / Stift Klosterneuburg

      3. Klosterneuburg Abbey

      From 1906 to 1908, Schiele made several oil studies of motifs in Klosterneuburg, such as the abbey’s carpentry shop from 1907.

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    Walking in Egon Schiele‘s footsteps in Lower Austria.

    •                         Ausstellungsraum Belvedere

      Klosterneuburg Abbey

      In Klosterneuburg, in 1909, Egon Schiele Schiele participated in a public exhibition for the very first time.
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    •                         Bahnhof Tulln a.d. Donau / Tulln

      Egon Schiele’s Birth Place

      The family Schiele lived in an apartment above the train station; Egon grew up there with his sisters. The rooms offer a glimpse into the eventful childhood of the artist.
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    •                         Danube Cycle Path, Tulln

      Egon Schiele Museum

      Here one can discover more about the private life of Egon Schiele. Each year, the museum shows a different selection of his works.
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    In the Footsteps of Egon Schiele in Lower Austria

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