Egon Schiele was born on 12 June 1890 in the small Lower Austrian town of Tulln, where his father was in charge of the station. His talent for art was already noticed at school by his art teacher Ludwig Karl Strauch. After the death of his father, who suffered from mental illness, his uncle Leopold Czihaczek was appointed as Schiele’s guardian in 1906. Against his uncle’s will, Schiele left school and enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1906 where, however, he soon felt that his teacher Christian Griepenkerl and the rigmarole of academic routine restricted his development. At the International Kunstschau of 1909 – where Klimt was president of the exhibition committee – Schiele showed four pictures. These demonstrated how the artist had formed his own style, free from academic constraints. In the same year he left the Academy and was a co-founder of the Neukunstgruppe (New Art Group). Throughout his life Schiele had the good fortune of having important friends and supporters like Gustav Klimt. In 1910 Leopold Czihaczek renounced his guardianship. In 1911 he met Wally Neuzil, who became his favourite model. Soon afterwards they were ‘living in sin’ in Krumau, today Cesky Krumlov, in Bohemia. Yet the small-town mentality was offended by Schiele’s nude studies of young girls. Schiele moved to Neulengbach in Lower Austria where on 13 April 1912 he was arrested for allegedly seducing a minor and was held in custody
for a total of twenty-four days; one of his works was publicly burned. These charges were dropped and Schiele’s sentence was ultimately three days’ detention for circulating indecent drawings. After moving back to Vienna, he married Edith Harms in 1915 and was called up for military service in Prague. His war service eventually led to him being transferred to the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna in 1917. In the same year the Österreichische Staatsgalerie purchased its first works
by Schiele and the artist association Sonderbund was founded. In March 1918 a major exhibition at the Vienna Secession was devoted to Schiele and his friends and resulted in the first true successes for the artist, both financially and artistically. Just half a year later on 31 October 1918 Schiele died of Spanish influenza after his wife had succumbed to the same disease.