Vienna Diary, July 14th

Egon Shiele was born in 1890 and died of the Spanish flu in 1918. During his brief life he participated in the influential and controversial Vienna secessionist art movement, winning support and patronage for his work. A “controversial art movement” in this case means all to say that a gang of young artists who were expected to paint classical scenes in the style and manner that was expected of them, broke away from the institutions and did their own thing. Their own thing caused all manner of pearl clutching that, at least to me, today, in retrospect, seems non obvious in cause, involving fine distinctions and no small amount of biting-the-hand-that-fed. As I understand it, nudity in and of itself was hardly unprecedented in art, but the way that Gustav Klimt did nudity was deemed obviously very bad, and Schiele, who was something of his protege subsequently discovered his own variations on making nakedness indecent in some fresh way.

Walking through the Leopold museum, which houses the largest Schiele collection in the world, I took a strong draught of all the secessionist stuff, going between rooms dedicated to one painter or the other, thinking to myself thoughts as articulate and insightful as, “OK, this guy had a few ideas of his own”. But the Schiele rooms were a revelation, in that I had no prior exposure and his work immediately struck me as particularly good. They had a prophetic quality, if you are willing to accept prefiguring an art style that might one day appear in 2000AD as prophesy.

I also enjoyed this extract from a letter that Klimt wrote. Obviously at this period of life, Klimt did not practice “the grindset”. I suspect that enjoying this kind routine is the prize won through hard work, luck, and success in your youth.