Research Point 2 Contrasting Artists A – Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele - Seated Woman with Bent Kneee 1917

For this research point I was to find drawings by two artists who work in contrasting ways: from tight, rigorous work to a more sketchy style.

I decided to research the artist who works in a sketchy style first.  While I have tried to find new artist so far in this module for this part of this research point I decided to research an artist I was already familiar with as when I saw the words ‘sketchy style’ he was the first artist that popped into my head and rightly so.

Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele  was born in Tulin in 1890. His father Adolph Schiele was the station master at Tulin Railway station and as a child Egon was fascinated by trains and would spend many hours drawing them. It is said that his passion for drawing started at the early age of 1 and a half years old and this led his father to believe is son would become an engineer and so at eleven years old was sent off to attend a Realgymnasium 25 miles away from his home town. Due to lack of friends and lack of interest in his studies he was a poor student and was kept back two years. When his father died of syphilis in 1905 family problems made his situation worse and eventually was politely asked to leave school by his teachers

In 1906 he asked his mother and uncle to allow him to apply at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and in the summer of that year, passed the tough entrance exam to became the youngest student ever to attend his class. Although he was passionate about art he showed a resistance to the strict regimen at the academy. As a brilliant draughtsman he would get through projects in minutes that would take other students in his class hours to complete but his early works were heavy handed and his soulless depictions of professional models did not amuse his tutors who simply gave him grades of ‘satisfactory.’

Schiele’s early work showed traits of Gustav Klimt and then in 1908 after a visit to a the large art show known as the ‘Kunstschau’ where a room full of the artists’ paintings were on show the influence of Klimt emerged full blown in Schiele’s paintings. He saw himself as the new Klimt and paraded round Vienna calling himself the ‘Silver’ Klimt and against the Academy’s authority accepted invitations to exhibit at the ‘Kunstschau’. In 1909 Schiele and a few of his like-minded class mates handed over a formal letter of protest to the academy expressing their disapproval at the academy’s rigid rules and withdrew themselves from the school.

By 1910 Egon Schiele’s unique expressionist style had gotten him many admirers including Gustav Klimt himself who bought several of his paintings and also offered to exchange some for his own. Klimt also introduced him to patrons and collectors and he thought that leaving the academy had turned out to be a wise career move but that wasn’t to be the case. Klimt was very vain and expected his works to be snapped up by the patrons who he had hoped would show him devotion but the truth was they didn’t find him the least bit cooperative and found his commissioned works, far too sexually explicit. Feeling let down he left Vienna for the countryside.

Egon Schiele led a short life dying at the early age of 28 of the Spanish flue in the epidemic that swept Europe in 1918 but his short life was somewhat controversial. At 21 years old he was imprisoned for seducing an underage girl and during his arrest the officials destroyed many of his drawings that were regarded at the time as pornographic due to the nature of his subjects. He spent a total of only 24 days in custody but during that time he a created a ‘series of 12 paintings depicting the difficulties and discomfort of being locked in a jail cell’ – Wikipedia.

His work was shaped by World War I during which he was drafted up and stationed in a Russian prisoner of war camp; however he still continued to paint and was even given a disused store room to be used as a studio where he painted captured Russian officers.

His style changed over the years  he was influenced by Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka and his early works from 1907 to 1909 resembled those of Klimt but in 1010 began experimenting with nudes and began developing his own unique style that we know today, pasty soulless doll like figures with strong overtones. Many view his works as pornographic, twisted or erotic depicting death, sex and discovery and yet I see his works as simply brilliant and way ahead of their time; paintings that have influenced so many artists since.

I first came across Schiele’s work in the music room at my secondary school, a poster of his ‘Self Portrait of Saint Sebastian’ but it wouldn’t be til many years later that i would find out the name of the artist or what the painting was called.

Egon Schiele - Self Portrait as Saint Sebastian
Egon Schiele – Self Portrait as Saint Sebastian

My favourite paintings by Schiele have got to be the Fighter 1913 and Seated Woman with Bent Knee 1917, although I have to admit I do love a nude or two of his which are simple, crude but very erotic.

Egon Schiele - Seated Woman with Bent Kneee 1917
Egon Schiele – Seated Woman with Bent Kneee 1917
Egon Schiele - Fighter, 1913
Egon Schiele – Fighter, 1913

I love the way he has clearly thought hard about the subjects (maybe a bit too hard from what we know of Schiele) and yet his paintings are no more than coloured sketches on a plain background, allowing him to show movement and even though some regard his subjects as being ‘soulless’ I don’t think they can be accused of being lifeless. I can see how it is easy to be influenced by an artist such as Schiele and I know that his paintings will come to mind in the ‘Drawing Figures’ part of this course.


Reinhard Steiner : Egon Scheile

Masters of Detailed Drawing 1, 19th Century, Thomas Hartley Cromek

Study of Plants, Ariccia Watercolour, over traces of a pencil underdrawing.

For this research point I was asked to find two artists who exemplify mastery of detailed drawing.

I used to have a reproduction painting site and am familiar with the works and lives of quite a few but since starting this course I’ve been introduced to new artists and new techniques so I thought I’d carry that on by typing in a few keywords on Google to see where they took me.

The first artist I found was a 19th century artist called Thomas Hartley Cromek and after seeing that his place of death was Wakefield, my home town, I made the decision to research this artist a little more.

Born in London in 1809 Thomas Hartley Cromek was the son of Robert Hartley Cromek the  engraver and art dealer who allegedly cheated William Blake out of potential profits. In his childhood he moved from school to school starting off his education at Enoch Harrison’s school in Wakefield and then onto the Moravian School in Fulneck. He then moved back to Wakefield to study at the grammar school there before returning to Harrison’s.

Thomas Hartley Cromek received his first art lessons from a Wakefield based portrait painter, James Hunter but then in 1826 he moved to Leeds study landscape painting under Joseph Rhodes, while studying in Leeds Thomas also taught himself anatomical drawing.

He travelled to Italy in 1830 to study the old masters and spent most of the next 20 years within the country mainly in Florence eventually reaching Rome where he attracted much attention for his ‘excellence in drawing and his careful colouring’ – Wikipedia. While in Rome he gave drawing lessons to several distinguished visitors including the British artist and poet, Edward Lear.

Between 1831 and 1849 Thomas Cromek spent most of his time drawing the major buildings in Rome as well as Greece but then was forced to leave Rome with the outbreak of the first Italian War of Independence.

There’s not much information about Thomas Hartley Cromek online about techniques, ideas, influences etc but I did find quite a few images.

Study of Plants, Ariccia Watercolour, over traces of a pencil underdrawing.
Study of Plants, Ariccia
Watercolour, over traces of a pencil underdrawing.

I found many of his works online but it was the drawing above that caught my eye and I thought it was quite relevant to this module. The drawing itself is only 7 1/4 x 8 1/8 in in size and yet his brilliant use of shadow amplifies the detail of the drawing. I enlarged this image on my computer to the size he would have worked at and was amazed how much detail he has got into such a small drawing with what I still regard to be a messy medium, for me that is anyway. He has managed to depict some very thin leaves and blades of grass and makes this picture seem a lot bigger than what it is.


 Just like his drawing of plants and flowers his watercolour paintings of buildings such as the Temple of Antoninus above shows brilliant detail and colour as well as amazing shadows which really amplify the bulkiness of the stone structure.



Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Research – Frottage – Max Ernst

Max Ernst Marine 1926 (oil on canvas)

Frottage was invented by Max Ernst in 1925. Find out more about how Ernst and others used this technique.

Born in Brühl in Germany in 1891 to a middle-class family Max Ernst was a German painter sculptor and graphic artist as well as a poet. Max’was inspired to take up painting by his father who was an amateur painter and had an interest in painting and sketching and nature.

Max enrolled at the University of Bonn in 1909 where he studied Philosophy, art history and literature as well as psychology and psychiatry during this time he visited asylums and developed a fascination for the art of mentally ill patients. He became an artist in 1911 and was influenced by the works of Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

Max Ernst’s early life was interrupted in 1914 by World War I when he was drafted and served on the Western and Eastern Front. Max was devastated by the effects of war and in his biography he wrote: “On the first of August 1914 M[ax].E[rnst]. died. He was resurrected on the eleventh of November 1918.” – Wikipedia. While on the Western front he was assigned to chart maps for a short time which allowed him to continue painting. World War I was a sad time for the expressionist movement with many of the expressionist artists dying in the trenches.

I recently watched two documentaries about the German Expressionist Movement, BBC’s ‘Art of Germany – In the Shadow of Adolph Hitler’ and ‘Degenerate Art, The Nazis vs. Expressionism’ a 1993 documentary which were both very interesting.

At the end of the war in 1918 Max returned to cologne and started the Dada movement in 1921, he is known as the pioneer of the Dada movement and surrealism.

In 1925 he invented frottage and developed it as a graphic art technique. Ernst got the idea after observing a washed-out wooden floor in his hotel in France on one rainy afternoon, which inspired him to transfer the texture of the floor to a sheet of paper using graphite. He also created textures from rubbing over objects such as textiles, bark and leaves and ‘Through precise selection, combination, control of texture and some discreet additions, he was able to build up delicate, surprising images of fantasy landscapes, plants and creatures.’ – Oxford Art Online.

Max Ernst Marine 1926 (oil on canvas)
Max Ernst Marine 1926 (oil on canvas)

The English Surrealist Maddox Conroy, (27 December 1912 – 14 January 2005) who discovered surrealism in 1935 and spent the rest of his life exploring its potential through his paintings, collages and photographs was also inspired by Max Ernst and also experimented with frottage as seen here in his Bird in the Hand (Watercolour on Paper).

Bird in the Hand (Watercolour on Paper)
Bird in the Hand (Watercolour on Paper)



Modern Museet

Bridgeman Education

Oxford Art Online