Egon Schiele’s extremely personal and expressive style, developed over a relatively short career, marked him as a major figure of Austrian Expressionism. Schiele’s early works show how influenced he was by his mentor Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secession, who were interested in exploring the possibilities of art outside the limitations of academic tradition. Under Klimt, Schiele’s works were sumptuous and overlaid with shimmery abstraction. But in 1910, Schiele began to explore the human form and his style took a dramatic turn as he began to exhibit works with sexually and psychologically intense subject-matter. His Self Portrait, Standing is one such work that exhibits Schiele’s raw and radical new style.
The background of Schiele’s Self Portrait, Standing is plain, foregrounding his fully nude body. He stands facing the viewer with his left arm twisted behind his back and his right arm bent at an odd angle. His dramatic use of line makes it look as if his skin was rubbed raw, exposing the muscle underneath. He wears a painful grimace upon his face and looks straight out at the viewer. There remains no trace of the sumptuous and shimmery gold inspired by Klimt, only a raw and tortured body; a body that reveals its true self. Here, Schiele is positing a body that is honest and authentic. He is expressing the truth of the human experience in 1910. His contorted body reveals the painful truth of modernity. Schiele believed in expressing his intense, inner feeling to the world through art and he did that by portraying a body with nothing to hide. Everything is on the surface, raw and emotional, in order to show the true face of the modern man.