Sitzende Frau mit hochgezogenem linken Bein (Seated Woman With Bent Knee), Egon Schiele, 1917
In 1917, Egon Schiele painted his wife Edith Harms, and titled his creation Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up. The portrait displays Edith sitting on the floor, resting her cheek on her left knee. The fiery red tones of her carefree hair produce a striking contrast with the vibrant greens of her loosely fitted shirt. Her look is bold and intense as she appears to be staring directly at the viewer. Her casual pose and attire create an intimate moment with onlookers.
The suggestive nature of this portrait was not an uncommon trait in Egon Schiele’s work, as he admired the controversial artistic manner of his mentor, Gustav Klimt. However, making eroticism the major theme in most of his artwork got Schiele in trouble with the law. He was imprisoned in 1912 for obscenity in his paintings, an incident that did not deter him from his erotic artwork, (although it may have motivated him to put clothes on Edith in Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up). Schiele created approximately 300 paintings and more than 3000 works on paper during his career. His life was cut short when he died of the Spanish Influenza at just 28 years old; his pregnant wife died of the same illness a mere three days later.
In a review of a 1997 Schiele Exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art in New York wrote: “Egon Schiele invested his art with an emotional intensity that, coupled with his radical formal innovations, characterized the Austrian contribution to Expressionism.” The review further added: “His preoccupation with sexuality and existential explorations of the human condition convey him both as a product of his time and an artist who achieved aesthetic maturation when he was barely post-adolescent. The very aspects of Schiele’s art that precluded its popularity during much of his lifetime–ugly distortion in place of accepted notions of beauty, unveiled eroticism, and personal angst–are those for which it is considered most compelling today.”