Photo credit HERE
BY JEFF BETTGER
I have been obsessed with the work of Egon Schiele for years now. His ridiculously, beautiful distorted figures are my favorite of all his work. A large majority are nude women and narcissistic contorted self-portraits. Schiele was born in 1890 in Austria so lived through world war one, but died in 1918 right at the end of the war. The roughly contorted figures that are so much a part of his body of work leave you feeling disturbed and gross, but also real. They seem to capture an element of humanity in all its wrinkles and curves. These images have always sat with me in a paradoxical way.
Much of Egons fame came years after his death and revolves around some of his paintings being confiscated by the Nazis and later being sold illegally to collectors. The one in particular that drew attention is called “A Portrait of Wally”. It is a portrait of his mistress Walburga Neuzil. The painting was part of a private collection of a Jewish art dealer named Lea Bondi. Wally was not documented correctly and thus did not get returned to the family after the war. Eventually it ended up at the MOMA and was recognized by family members and thus a fiasco over the true ownership began. This ended up changing the dynamic around Nazi confiscated art, and how to deal with it, around the entire world. There is a recent documentary entitled the same as the painting “Portrait of Wally.” You can watch it to get more in depth on that subject.
I first heard of Schiele through a band my friend Johnathan, whom I lived with at the time shared with me called Rachels. They created music for a theatrical performance about Egon’s life and released the songs as an album called “Music for Egon Schiele.” It was my first exposure to Schiele as well as to Rachels. I became very interested in both artists. I shortly after met my friend Olivia who also has a love for the paintings of Egon Schiele. It was a formative time for all of us. We spent a lot of time together making music, art, and conspiring how we could change the world. I will always have a fond spot for Egon Schiele and his visual depiction of people that has always seemed to get behind the person and into the psyche of the person...or maybe it is just his own being projected on his models. Either way I have been affected in profound ways from this man’s work. The way I create and like to make things is also somewhat self-obsessed and aware of all that is contorted in me and around me. I feel drawn to Schiele’s work and mesmerized by the definition and simultaneously lack thereof in it. If you have not discovered this artist yet I encourage you to take a look. Let me know what you think. Is it vile or beautiful? Pornographic or inspired?