Egon Schiele, Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait) © Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 465

Egon Schiele, Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait)


In the radical and obsessive ways in which he envisioned himself, Egon Schiele staged his body, as it were, and through facial expressions and corporal gesticulations, brought it to the limit of what is anatomically possible. An early highlight of this was the 1910 painting Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait). The 20-year-old artist presented himself naked, in an almost painful physical position. The skin, and with it the body’s sensual surface, is displayed with every tendon, muscle, and bone emphasized, making the body appear almost skinned. He projected this fragmented body onto the canvas with no apparent narrative context. The yellow-green flesh, signal-red eyes, nipples, navel, and genitals are far removed from any naturalistic color scheme. Schiele's search for the ego, pursued in countless self-portrayals, form a reflection on the quintessence of human existence, in which Eros and Thanatos play the leading roles.


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