Schiele’s work focus of Let’s Talk Art lecture

The work of Egon Schiele was thrown under a microscope Wednesday, April 4, by senior art history major Betty Lou Starnes. As part of the “Let’s Talk Art” lecture series, Starnes’ presentation consisted of her reading pieces from her capstone research paper on Schiele.

Starnes was introduced by art history professor Dr. Irene Nero, who in turn gave a quick synopsis of the lecture series and the requirements placed upon Starnes for the research paper.

“Our senior students in the art history concentration are usually working on their research for at least two semesters,” said Nero. “It’s too much information to deliver by just standing there and talking about it. This is a very professional methodology that we’re doing here today.”

Schiele was born in Austria to Adolph Schiele, a station master for the Austrian State Railways. Throughout his early life Schiele, who was the only male child in the family, saw his father as a polarizing figure, until his death in 1905 from syphilis.

“Egon Schiele was one of the most disturbed artists among the Viennese Expressionists, with his career spanning the early 20th century,” said Starnes. “When not absorbed by sexuality, Schiele seemed absorbed by himself. Again and again he returned to self-portraits – often nude – as if the greatest mystery in the world was his own existence.”

The majority of Schiele’s work contains varying degrees of graphic content, but primarily nudity. His focus on nudity, along with his utilization of self-portraits, makes his work unique from others of the era. His main source of inspiration, Gustav Klimt, portrayed much of the same traits that Schiele did. After a relatively unknown career, Schiele, along with his wife Edith, died of a Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Schiele was 28.

Starnes talked about her interest in Schiele, and the motivation she found in his work.

“The way that I first became enraptured with this artist was looking at his water colors as a master copy,” said Starnes. “It has gone from that to an almost ridiculous obsession and reading a multitude of books, to create this paper that has led me to figure out what I want to do with my degree. It’s kind of reignited the fire for my pursuit of a graduate degree.”