Austrian Expressionism

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But after they had achieved a measure of success in the 1910s, both artists made ambitious print projects, with the encouragement of publishers and dealers in both Austria and Germany.

In 1910 Kokoschka moved to Germany, where he lived off and on for the next 13 years and was active in Expressionist circles. Schiele remained in Austria (although he exhibited frequently in Germany). In 1918 he died from influenza, at the age of 28.

Expressionism in Austria is principally represented by two major figures: Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. Although they were essentially rivals, they both concentrated on portraiture and the nude, using sexually or psychologically charged body language to bore into the human psyche and challenge the facade of complacency and conformity that dominated Viennese culture.

For the Austrian Expressionists it was drawing—Schiele's taut lines and Kokoschka’s nervous draftsmanship—rather than printmaking that helped them develop their highly personal and emotional styles.

<i>The Girl Li and I</i> (in-text plate, folio 10) from <i>Die träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Boys)</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

The Girl Li and I (in-text plate, folio 10) from Die träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Boys)

1917 (executed 1907–08)

Commissioned to make an illustrated fairy tale for a wealthy patron, Kokoschka instead delivered this haunting story of sexual awakening, set far away from modern civilization. The flat, boldly colored planes and stylized forms announce Kokoschka's rejection of academic conventions in favor of childlike, naïve expression. The "girl Li" was Lilith Lang, the sister of Kokoschka's best friend at school and the object of his infatuation.
<i>Nude with Back Turned</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

Nude with Back Turned


Kokoschka's wobbly, agitated line shows his move away from the stylized flatness and aestheticization of The Dreaming Boys. Kokoschka made this work while he was still a student at Vienna's School of Decorative Art, where he took nude figure drawing classes twice a week.
<i>Pietà</i> (Poster for <i>Murderer, Hope of Women</i>)

Oskar Kokoschka

Pietà (Poster for Murderer, Hope of Women)


Kokoschka reveled in the scandalous reputation he had established for himself with the publication of his 1908 book The Dreaming Boys (see Slide 1). He further antagonized Vienna with the graphic imagery in this poster announcing his play Murderer, Hope of Women, which premiered in July 1909 at the second Kunstschau exhibition in that city. Kokoschka's raw, primitivist style of depicting the ghastly pale woman and blood-red man hints at the barbarism and violence of the performance.
Plate (folio 8) from <i>Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, Hope of Women)</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

Plate (folio 8) from Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, Hope of Women)


In this illustration from a book version of his notorious play Murderer, Hope of Women, Kokoschka shows the epic battle of the sexes near its climax as Man, with knife raised, overcomes Woman. Spectators watch from behind a parted curtain. Herwarth Walden's Berlin-based Verlag Der Sturm published this deluxe volume; Kokoschka heightened the expressive impact by adding watercolor to three copies of the book, two of which are now in the Museum's collection.
<i>Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat


Notorious after the 1908 and 1909 Kunstschau exhibitions in Vienna, Kokoschka garnered many commissions to make portraits of Viennese society figures, including the Tietzes, who were both prominent art historians. Rather than portray them within an elegant Viennese interior, he set them against a murky field covered with violent scratches that pulsate with the energy of modern life.
<i>Standing Male Nude with Arm Raised, Back View</i>

Egon Schiele

Standing Male Nude with Arm Raised, Back View


Just 20 years old when he made this watercolor, Schiele used studies of male nudes—often featuring his friend Erwin Dominick Osen, a young painter and mime—as a means to develop an expressive vocabulary that featured sinuous, lean bodies in motion.
<i>Girl with Black Hair</i>

Egon Schiele

Girl with Black Hair


This watercolor is typical of Schiele's voyeuristic images of women in his studio, shown twisting into a variety of licentious positions. Here, he balances the girl's lush tumble of blue-black hair with the inky darkness of her raised skirt, which reveals another tuft of dark hair and her stockings. Since Schiele could not afford professional models, he used prostitutes and süsse Mädel, or "sweet young things," working-class girls who satisfied the sexual needs of Vienna's gentlemen.
<i>Reclining Woman</i>

Gustav Klimt

Reclining Woman


At the opening of the 20th century, Klimt was Vienna's most prominent artist, known for his monumental wall paintings, elegant society portraits, and glittering landscapes. In addition to these public works, Klimt produced a large number of private drawings of female nudes. His quickly rendered lines capture intimate scenes of women in blatantly erotic poses, revealing the seething sexuality that lurked beneath the city's decorous exteriors. Klimt was an early mentor to both Kokoschka and Schiele.
<i>Squatting Woman</i> from <i>The Graphic Work of Egon Schiele</i>

Egon Schiele

Squatting Woman from The Graphic Work of Egon Schiele

(1914, published 1922)

Schiele transferred his mastery of line and keen observation to printmaking, as demonstrated in this drypoint of a half-nude woman who twists and crouches under the artist's intense gaze. Schiele often viewed his models from unconventional angles and captured them in motion.
<i>Portrait of Arthur Roessler</i> from <i>The Graphic Work of Egon Schiele</i>

Egon Schiele

Portrait of Arthur Roessler from The Graphic Work of Egon Schiele

(1914, published 1922)

Viennese art critic and writer Arthur Roessler, Schiele's most important patron, provided the financially strapped artist with the means and materials to make prints, in the belief that they could provide Schiele with a way to break out of the narrow art circles of Vienna and into the larger and more lucrative German print market.
<i>Shaw or the Irony</i> (Poster for a Lecture by Egon Friedell)

Egon Schiele

Shaw or the Irony (Poster for a Lecture by Egon Friedell)

1910 (published 1912)

Schiele's confrontational snarl graphically announces the young artist's rebellious stance and desire to shake Vienna out of its happy complacency. This poster, which advertises a lecture by cultural critic Egon Friedell, cropped a nude self-portrait of the artist to focus all attention on Schiele's grimacing face.
<i>Self-Portrait, Hand on Chest</i>

Oskar Kokoschka

Self-Portrait, Hand on Chest

(1911–12, published 1912)

Playing on his reputation as Vienna's "wildest beast," Kokoschka presents himself with the shaved head of a criminal and gestures to a wound on his right side in a blasphemous allusion to Christ. This image, which Kokoschka first made in 1910 to advertise the Berlin periodical Der Sturm, here announces a lecture by Kokoschka at a Viennese cultural institution in January 1912.
Moderne Galerie Theatiner-Maffeistr. Max Oppenheimer (Exhibition Poster)

Max Oppenheimer (MOPP)

Moderne Galerie Theatiner-Maffeistr. Max Oppenheimer (Exhibition Poster)


This poster of a gaunt, contorted nude was intended as the advertisement for MOPP's exhibition at Munich's prestigious Galerie Thannhauser in 1911. But the Munich police banned the image, which mixed sexually suggestive body hair with Christian iconography, as indecent. Kokoschka recognized the image as too close to his own Self-Portrait, Hand on Chest (see the previous slide) and accused his former friend of plagiarism.
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