Charles Saatchi's Great Masterpieces: Egon Schiele's brush with infamy

Detail of 'Self-Portrait with Physalis' (1912) by Egon Schiele
Detail of 'Self-Portrait with Physalis' (1912) by Egon Schiele Credit: Bridgeman

Egon Schiele had a brief, calamitous life, dead at 28. The “Cursed Artist” found each day more turbulent than the last, until he succumbed to the Spanish Flu pandemic that swept across Europe, reaching Vienna in 1920.

Growing up, he watched his father’s mental health deteriorate, a sister die aged 10, his mother lose a daughter at birth and then another a year later – it was a morbidly bleak upbringing for an already hypersensitive young man. In his painting Dead Mother, completed when he was 20, he was clearly still traumatised by his mother’s suffering, creating the moving image of a parent seen with her stillborn child as she lies with the foetus in a pool of amniotic fluid.

In 1906, Schiele...

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