‘Death and the Maiden’ – Egon Schiele, 1915-16 (taken from summer project review)

'Death and the Maiden' - Egon Schiele, 1915-16  (taken from summer project review)

For a good while now, Egon Schiele has been a major influence on my both my artistic style, and the concepts behind my work. His creation and honing of the expressive style is what drew me to him, and it is the great emotional intensity, and the window into Schiele’s very soul, that keeps me coming back. This piece, ‘Death and the Maiden’, is my favourite work of his, not only for the great technical skill that has created it; both realistic, but expressive. The woman is at one frail, and sickly, but with stereotypical connotations of beauty; thin arms, deep red lips and rouged cheeks, she is a caricature of his ex-partner, of whom he loved. However, her skin is pale, and the arms are also disturbingly angular and slender, clutching around The Man. However, the Man (who we can assume is Egon Schiele himself), is dark, both in colour and in clothing. His eyes wide, one hand gripping the shoulder of the woman, and the other stroking her head. There is a look of lust, and of possession within the eyes of the man, as if his very life is being threatened to be taken away from him, through this, you see the meanings behind this painting, which is what makes me favour it over anything else.
The pair cling to each other, but there is something deeper here, something much more foreboding than a show of affection. We see that they do not look at each other in affection, rather that they don’t actually look at each other at all; the man stares blankly into the void, his eyes wide with fear, whereas the woman looks off in the same direction, clinging, but not paying attention. They seem to hold onto each other, onto their relationship, through habit, not out of love. The piece is widely regarded as a comment on the loss of his lover, Walburga Neuzil, when he married Edith Harms. Interestingly, he believed that he could continue his relationship with ‘Wally’ despite his marital status, and she left him. Adding to this, is the unravelling of the ‘cocoon’ that surrounds them; it is nothing more than a white sheet, possibly showcasing the purity and intimacy of them sharing a bed, and their relationship surrounding it, is now falling apart. It now provides little to no protection from the barren, harsh environment surrounding them. IT truly is a fascinating piece, it showcases such complex human emotions in a way that anyone can perceive them. This piece is an emotional response to this situation, in which the image of Wally is taken from a previous work, whereas, Schiele’s image is freshly struck, it is a creation of his being in that moment, and this is where my perceptions of what ‘Art’ is come from. I believe that Art is truly successful when it showcases what the artist is in a single moment; what they perceive, what they feel, what they can comprehend etc. And this has shaped my Artistic mentality.


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