Spanish Influenza and Egon Schiele
The Spanish Influenza killed not only hockey players but the Viennese painter Egon Schiele. Schiele has a new show at Neue Galerie. I usually avoid Klimt and Schiele because of their overpowering and unsalutary eroticism. This show made me think again. Schiele was born in 1890. As an adolescent, he attended art school in Vienna, and was soon a precocious art star, recognized by the older Klimt, for instance, as a greater draughtsman. His is a tale of Bohemia. In his early twenties, he was arrested and jailed, charged with using underage girls as nude models. Eventually this was found to be false, but he was kept in jail because he allowed them into a studio filled with what the judge considered to be pornography. He did have a favorite model and girlfriend who had been Klimt’s model and girlfriend and was indeed very young. He left her for a more middle class woman, whom he married. World War I arrived and he joined the Austrian army. He served in Vienna and continued to paint. His country was losing the war. But he had a show which received transcendent reviews in the spring of 1918. In October 1918, his wife was six months pregnant when, despite elaborate precautions, she succumbed suddenly to Spanish Influenza. Schiele died three days later, the day of his wife’s funeral. He was 28.