July 15

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The Leopold Museum in Vienna Houses the Largest Schiele Collection in the World

Egon Schiele (1890–1918) was an Austrian Expressionist painter of the early 20th century. He is known for his paintings’ intensity and raw sexuality, and he is famous for the many self-portraits he produced – including nude self-portraits.

 

The Leopold Museum in Vienna is the museum with the most extensive collection of modern Austrian art. Egon Schiele’s artworks form part of the collection and are the world’s most comprehensive collection of Egon Schiele art.

 

This article will see how and why the Leopold Museum started and discuss the Schiele Collection. We’ll also look at Egon Schiele’s life story.

 

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Rudolf Leopold – the Collector

When Rudolf Leopold (1925 – 2010) was studying to become an eye doctor, he developed a passion for art. With his graduation, his mother offered him a car, but he refused and bought his first Schiele painting, “The Hermits.” He recognized Schiele’s talent at the early stages of his painting career.

 

Over the years, Leopold collected hundreds of Egon Schiele paintings and other artwork created by 20th-century Austrian artists. Rudolf Leopold and his wife Elisabeth campaigned for years to get Schiele’s works recognized in the international art world. Fortunately, they’ve succeeded, and Schiele is nowadays recognized as one of the best artists of his time.

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In 1994, Leopold’s collection of 5,200 artworks by Austrian artists was gathered in the Leopold Museum.

 

The Leopold Museum

The Leopold Museum in Vienna houses one of the largest collections of modern Austrian art. The collection has works of artists like, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl, and Oskar Kokoschka. In 1994, the Republic of Austria and the National Bank of Austria assisted with the consolidation of the more than 5,000 works of art collected by the Leopolds into the Leopold Museum Private Foundation. The Leopold Museum opened in 2001.

 

Most art scholars worldwide who want to learn about Egon Schiele’s art try to visit the Leopold Museum at least once. By studying his 42 paintings, 184 watercolors, drawings, and prints, as well as his many writings and texts in the museum, an art scholar can see the different styles used and the artistic development of his works all in one place. It is the most extensive collection of Schiele artworks in the world.

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Interestingly, the Leopold Museum was involved in many controversies concerning Nazi-looted art. In 1997, for instance, Leopold was accused of keeping Nazi-looted art, although it was known that the works were stolen. One of the works is Schiele’s “Portrait of Wally.”

 

In 2008, Austria’s Green Party and the “Israelitische Kultusgemeinde” (IKG) again accused the museum of housing art stolen by Nazis from Jewish owners. As a result, the Nazis stole Schiele’s “Houses on the Lake” and four other artworks from the Jewish owner. Finally, in 2016, the heirs of the Jewish owner and the Museum settled on the five works.

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Egon Schiele’s Life Story – Early Years

Egon Schiele’s father was a station master, and as a child, he was fascinated by trains. So as a child, he spent hours drawing trains. He started secondary school in the city of Krems when he was 11. He didn’t do well academically at school but was always interested in athletics and painting.

 

When Schiele was 14 years old, his father died, and he went to live with his uncle, who recognized Schiele’s drawing talent and arranged for a tutor. In 1906 he entered the “Kunstgewerbeschule” (“School of Arts and Crafts”) in Vienna. Then, after less than a year, he was sent to the more classical-orientated “Akademie der Bildenden Künste.” However, he was frustrated with his teachers and left after three years.

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In the meantime, Schiele met Gustav Klimt, who took an interest in the young artist. He bought his drawings, arranged models, and introduced him to potential patrons. As a result, Schiele’s early works from 1907 to 1909 have strong similarities with Klimt’s artworks of the time.

Egon Schiele’s Life Story – More About His Art

Schiele had his very first exhibition in Klosterneuburg in 1908, and in 1909 he and other dissatisfied students of the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” founded the “Neukunstgruppe” (“New Art Group”).

 

As Schiele then was free of the Academy’s conventions, he started with his exploration of the human form and sexuality. Although some of Egon Schiele’s paintings had already been daring, it went further when he began to include Klimt’s decorative eroticism.

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But since 1910, when Schiele had begun experimenting with nudes, he developed a definitive new style. Art critics consider his self-portrait “Kneeling Nude with Raised Hands” (1910) among the most significant nude art pieces created during the 1900s. From 1910 onwards, he participated in several exhibitions and Secessionist shows.

 

 

Egon Schiele’s Life Story after 1911

In 1911, Egon Schiele met the seventeen-year-old Wally Neuzil and they lived together in Vienna. She served as a relevant model for some of his most striking paintings. To “escape” from Vienna because they felt “claustrophobic,” they went to the small town of Krumau in southern Bohemia. However, he and Wally were driven out of the town as the residents disapproved of their lifestyle and his art.

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The couple moved to Neulengbach, where he was later arrested and more than a hundred of his drawings seized by the police because they were considered pornographic. In addition, he was found guilty of showing erotic paintings and drawings in places accessible to children. Schiele used his 25 days in prison to create a series of 12 pieces of artwork showing the difficulties and hardships of being held in prison.

 

When he married Edith Harms in 1915, Wally left him. In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic reached Vienna and Edith died due to the disease. The artist died only three days after her. During those agonizing three days, he drew a few sketches of his beloved Edith.

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Some of Egon Schiele’s Paintings

Some of the famous Egon Schiele paintings in the Leopold Museum are:

  • “Portrait of Wally”
  • “Self Portrait With Chinese Lantern Plant”
  • “Edith In A Striped Dress, Sitting”
  • “Setting Sun”
  • “Mother and Child”
  • “Nude Boy in Gray Shirt”
  • “Caress” (“Cardinal and Nun”)
  • “The Lyricist”
  • “Self Portrait With Lowered Head”
  • “Kneeling Woman in a Gray Dress”

 

Conclusion

Most of Egon Schiele’s artworks are exhibited in the most extensive collection of his works in the Leopold Museum in Vienna. This is the most extensive collection of his artworks worldwide. And it all started with a passionate collector who recognized the potential of Egon Schiele as an artist.

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