It is said that Schiele strongly embodied feminism in his art by attempting to capture equality in form and expression in both male and female subjects. In the section The Feminine, we grasp the powerful sexual energy, yet crude beauty manifested by the heavy pressure of the brushwork on the facial and body lines. His female portraits, therefore, gesture the pleasure and confidence that women can enjoy by outpouring their inner desires physically and emotionally.
Egon Schiele, Woman in Mourning, 1912, Leopold Museum, Vienna
The enigmatic “Woman in Mourning” (1912) illustrates a sorrowful look of Schiele’s model and lover, Wally Neuzil. Her pale skin, sunken cheeks, and large eyes are clearly wet with tears. Looking closely, lurking behind her shoulder is Schiele’s face, blotted with reddish-ocher around his eyes — the color that truthfully characterizes Wally’s hair color. However, he represented her hair as black, resembling his own. Schiele suggests that Wally is occupied by thoughts of him and his madness, and he himself has caused her immense lamentation. The duplicity of the images may appear disturbing, but also insinuates their complicated relationship.
Egon Schiele, Mother and Child, 1912, Leopold Museum, Vienna
Also in this section, the small portrait “Mother and Child” (1912) is reminiscent of the Christian image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Yet, the air of solemnity is absent. We are struck by the child’s horrific expression, as though fearing a hostile world, while the mother looks down disconcertingly. Two profoundly expressed faces and hands stand out in the dark. Schiele was said to have painted the portrait with his fingers, leaving prints in the wet pigment. Many of Schiele’s mother-child figures correspond to death and anxiety, rather than peace and love.
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