Egon Schiele, Special Exhibition Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Artworks by Egon Schiele

To mark the centenary of the deaths of Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) and Egon Schiele (1890–1918), the MFA(Museum of Fine Arts) presents an exhibition of rarely seen drawings by the Austrian artists on loan from the Albertina Museum in Vienna. Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter. A protégé of Gustav Klimt, Schiele was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. His work is known for its anguished eroticism, explicit sexuality and nudity, and exaggerated and distorted bodies depicted through angular, contorted sketches and heavy lines.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boy with Long Coat, 1910

  • Watercolor and black chalk on wrapping paper
  • The Albertina Museum, Vienna
  • Like Schiele’s nearby self-portraits, this boy is depicted in an expressively odd and incomprehensible pose, his body dramatically truncated by the edge of the sheet. His eyes stand out-colorless and detailed in black chalk lines amid the dense, ruddy brown watercolor. They look up: is this boy with his awkward, uncomfortable stance, questioning us or trying to engage us, as we look on?

Two Crouching Girls, 1911

  • Watercolor and graphite on Asian paper
  • The Albertina Museum, Vienna
  • These two figures may seem to be propped into position like dolls, with their cupid’s-bow lips, wide eyes, and droopy shoulders. On closer inspection, they are more unsettling: notice the unnatural, unhealthy color of the flesh-particularly the icy tone of the blonde’s skin-and the outsized hands.

Young Peasant Girl, 1912

  • Watercolor and graphite on Strathmore Japan paper
  • The Albertina Museum, Vienna
  • The artist’s friend Arthur Roessler wrote, “For months on end, Schiele was occupied with drawing and painting working-class children. He was fascinated with the ravages of the dirt and suffering to which these innocents are exposed. In amazement he saw the shaded green eyes behind the red inflamed lids, the diseased wrists, and the souls inside these shoddy vessels.” This little girl embodies these contradictions: at once youthful and world-weary in her withdrawn stance and sorrowful expression, her rosy arm contrasting her pale, mottled face, crowned by unkempt locks.

Trieste Fishing Boats, 1912

  • Watercolor and graphite on Strathmore Japan paper
  • The Albertina Museum, Vienna
  • Trieste was a place with personal history for the artist. His parents had gone there on their honeymoon, and the artist traveled there in 1906 with this younger (and favorite) sistes Gerti, and again after this prison ordeal in 1912. His depiction of fishing boats combines rich color and nautical detail with a minimum of setting-merely a suggestion of green-blue water on which the vessels float. Notice the way he collapses space, with the little boat at right abutting the voluminous big boat.

Old Houses in Krumau, 1914

  • Pencil and Watercolor on Asian paper
  • The Albertina Museum, Vienna
  • In this drawing of his mother’s hometown, Schiele presents a poignant juxtaposition of spare pencil and brushy color. The densely clustered buildings are suspended without a ground-line or water’s edge to situate us. The letters on some of the buildings are likely color notations made by the artist, who may have considered working up a relaled painting. Schiele responded to places much in the same way he did to people. He observed: “I really prefer the autumnal state of men and things, and of towns too. The transience of human life is paralleled in the visible signs of the transitoriness of inanimate objects. In the autumn nature seems to be filled with a vegetal melody that also exudes from old walls and fills the heart with sadness reminding us that we are but pilgrims in this world.”