The Austrian artist Egon Schiele (June 12 1890 – October 31 1918) has been one of my art idols from the moment I discovered his work when I was attending high school. Especially his bold, sometimes explicit depiction of nude females, created in expressive, virtuoso pencil lines and the often rather dark quality of his art and life appealed to me.
During my studies to become an art teacher I researched some of his infuences (mainly Gustav Klimt and expressionist dance). To see these drawings for myself I hitch-hiked from the Netherlands to Vienna, Austria where I visited the Albertina museum to gawk at some facsimile high quality reproductions, slept in a depressing two person hotel room and left the next day. Being alone, a vegetarian and non-drinker at that time I felt totally out of place in Sausage/Beer infested Vienna…
Reconstructing Schiele drawings with life models
More or less half a year ago I started to ask my life drawing models to take on positions similar to those depicted in the drawings of Egon Schiele, and bring clothing similar to what his models posed in. This developed into a series, a kind of mission, some kind of research or experience from the inside by drawing. Fifty drawings, many private sessions and a session with two life models later I think I actually made some discoveries…
Here is a collage of works by Schiele we reconstructed. Below it are those fifty drawings of mine.
Just what are those “discoveries” I mentioned earlier? Read it after looking at the drawings. Clicking on one of them opens a separate window with larger versions for you to explore.
What we discovered while reconstructing drawings by Egon Schiele
We obviously had a very close look at the artworks, different from the casual art appreciation. Here are some random realizations my muses and I came to while trying to emulate the specific poses, originally depicted by Schiele:
Even a virtuoso line artist like Schiele sometimes sketched with very light thin lines before finding the final form;
Looking at his drawing hand, the way his lines curve etc. he apparently was able to create many drawings very quickly;
In working this fast he often sacrificed anatomical correctness: too large an arm, body parts which are partly hidden from view not connecting, choosing not to show (too detailed and laborious?) feet;
He sometimes used a nifty little trick: turning the drawing 90 degrees before signing it. Some of his at first glance standing models were actually lying down;
My models often found it physically impossible to exactly duplicate a position. Either some very flexible girls posed for him or he took many liberties in his depictions of the poses;
Each and every model had trouble finding the right pose because, looking at the art, it was easy to choose the wrong leg or arm. They really had to analyze which arm did what etc.;
Trying to achieve some of his quality in line drawing was often rather tiring. It is an unforgiving style where every mistake stands out. You have to know and decide where the line should be before actually drawing it. As a result I respect his work even more;
I am very fortunate to be able to work with a few models who have no inhibitions when explicit poses are concerned. Something I had never imagined to experience and it makes me wonder how Egon Schiele, who died when he was only 28, managed to do so very often;
The more I ventured into this Schiele derived drawing, the less “erotic” his art (which it supposedly is to many people) appeared to me. Of course he had the gaze of a young man but he often depicted his subjects in a harsh, sickly or detached way;
While famous for his expressive art where his muse almost appears emaciated, drawn in an angular fashion, I think his line work depended on his mood at that particular moment. A lot of drawings of his are actually after models having a fuller body type and were quickly drawn with long, fluent lines;
His output was very prolific. I see an urgency in his work, almost as if he was obsessed by femininity, compelled to draw these female subjects.
Now that this “project” of mine has come to an end I will appreciate the art of Egon Schiele in a new way. It has been an enriching experience working on this with nice and cooperative muses, in a relaxed atmosphere.
What do you think, looking at Schiele’s art? What about this series of mine?