Egon Schiele, Moa, 1911 © Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 2310

Egon Schiele, Moa

In the oeuvre of Egon Schiele, two elements of great significance are pose and motion. In Schiele’s early depictions of his closest friends, such as the mime Erwin Dom Osen and the dancer “Moa”, or in the highly original and individual poses for the camera thought up by his friend Anton Josef Trèka, Schiele’s enthusiasm for transforming the human body into a comprehensive work of art can be clearly felt.


The depictions of Moa provide a unique look at Egon Schiele’s milieu and the Bohemian circles in Vienna during that period. Moa herself was an icon of turn-of-the-century Viennese culture, and she served as Schiele’s model for numerous portraits. With her life partner Erwin Osen, an actor and one of Egon Schiele’s close friends, she shared a fascination with forms of bodily expression, as well as with the extreme distortion of facial expressions and gestures. In his art, Schiele was to further heighten this form of pantomime, transferring it to the level of emotional life and sentiment. This image of Moa numbers among the most painterly portraits of the dancer, and is also one of those which are most perfect in terms of composition and the use of colour. The ornamental architecture of the subject’s clothing in combination with her more naturalistic face still harkens back to Schiele’s great role model, Gustav Klimt. At the same time, however, he has already overcome his protégé status by conceiving the decorative dress not as an end in itself, as a painting within a painting, but instead by depicting the surfaces and bands of colour so dynamically that they actually suggest the dancer’s movements.

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