With 41 paintings and 184 works on paper the Leopold Museum is the largest and most prominent collection with works of Egon Schiele worldwide.
When Egon Schiele died in 1918 at the age of only 28 year of the Spanish flu he was seen as being one of the most important artists of his time. During the turmoil of the following decades he was more and more buried in oblivion until he completely disappeared into thin air after being judged as “degenerate art”. When Rudolf Leopold saw works by Egon Schiele at the beginning of the 1950s he immediately recognized their quality, emotionality and technical bravura could absolutely be compared to the Old Masters. The life of the young eye doctor changed radically. From now on he entirely devoted himself to collecting and trading art. Many Schiele paintings and drawings were on sold on the free market at the time and even quite affordable even though they were not that cheap: a large-sized oil painting pretty much had the same price as a new car. Compared to the many million Euros that one would have to pay for them today this is nothing. Rudolf Leopold made significant contributions to the international esteem in which he is held today.
Besides the oil paintings and graphic works the Leopold Museum also houses the Egon Schiele-Documentation Centre that is dedicated to research on Schiele’s work and also holds numerous autographs. For the first time the lyricist work of Schiele dawns on a broader audience.
Schiele as lyricist
While Schiele was quite popular for his paintings and drawings in his lifetime, his poetic work was unnoticed for a long time although his expressionist lyricism is indeed quite important. The originals of Schiele’s poems belong in large part to the Leopold collection. Many letters and poems were almost designed as graphic works of art by Egon Schiele. The topics are similar to those depicted in his paintings: those are personal visions with the greatest expressiveness, colorfulness and directness. Unusual word combinations and wird coining, gramatically incomplete phrases and graphically positioned hyphens coin this so unusual atmospheric language. For instance Schiele wants „to taste dark water“, „see wild air“, „build white clouds“ oder he creates „rainbow foam“, foot race alleys“ or a „wind winterland“. His hard pressed soul that finds expression in his artistic world also breaks out eruptively in his lyricist work: „Excess of life“ and „agony of thinking “ are just as present as dark forces: „demons! – brake the violence! – your language, - your signs, - your power!“, proclaims Egon Schiele. The range of his contradictory feelings culminates in the paradoxical and final finding: „Everything is lively dead“.