Love story in pictures: Egon Schiele and Wally Neuzil
The young talentEarly last century, the job of an artist’s model was as respected as that of a prostitute and of similar status value. Normally, women who sat for artists were of low birth, with no education or pedigree. Walburga Neuzil was one of those.
She was an illegitimate child. When she was half a year old, her parents got married, and the girl was given a surname after her father, a teacher in a minor country town close to Vienna. When Josef Neuzil died (which is thought to have happened in 1905), the mother with Wally and three younger daughters moved to Vienna. Being scarce of money, they often changed houses. The girl had to start earning for a living herself, and she jumped at any job opportunity, whether it was a cashier, a shop assistant, or a fashion model.
Egon Schiele. Gustav Klimt in Blue Smock, 1913
By a version, it was Gustav Klimt, Schiele’s teacher and patron, who introduced him to Wally in 1911 — she, supposedly, sat for Klimt’s paintings. The 16-year-old model was rumoured to be in love with the painter who was in his late forties. However, there is no documentary evidence for the fact, which, thus, remains a mere piece of gossip.
The funny picturesThe couple moved to the town of Neulengbach, but things only got worse. There, Schiele even landed in jail. By some accounts, the police descended on his studio for a girl who had run away from home and sought shelter for the night at Egon and Wally’s. In the studio, the police seized some pictures, too scandalous by the standards of those days, portraying nude Neuzil and other models. The painter was incriminated distribution of obscene images.
- Egon Schiele. Schiele’s Room in Neulengbach, 1911
- Egon Schiele. Prison. "I Feel Not Punished but Purified", 1912
It was neither the first nor the last scandal involving Schiele and — directly or indirectly — Wally. The Catholics' indignation was caused by the oil painting entitled Cardinal and Nun (1912). Not only was the subject outrageous, but the public recognised the painter’s features in the nun’s face and spotted that the cardinal’s legs were actually Neuzil’s (in the canvas, they looked quite the same as in the watercolour of the girl).
- Egon Schiele. Wally Neuzil Kneeling with Grey Cloak. 1912
- Egon Schiele. Self-Portrait with Raised Bare Shoulder. 1912
The pictures proving that the public’s opinion did have a leg to stand on.
The nun’s face.
In truth and fidelityHaving Wally as a partner was, in many ways, a blessing and a benefit for the painter. She was never tired of non-stop posing, both solo and with other girls (in the latter case, she could keep an eye on them preventing any amorous advances to hot-blooded Schiele). It is believed that it was during his Wally affair that he entered into artistic maturity and fully developed his creative power. It was the period when he created almost all of his best and most recognisable works.
- Egon Schiele. Two Female Nudes, 1912
- Egon Schiele. Woman in Underclothes and Stockings, 1913
Egon Schiele. Wally Neuzil, 1912
Although not a timid sort of person, Wally was quite thin-skinned. Malignant remarks about her social position she heard from the neighbours or Schiele’s clients could easily make her cry. Arthur Roessler, his friend who patronised him, called Wally ‘his shadow'. But in 1915, after Schiele was drafted into the army, he wrote to Roessler, "I intend to get married, advantageously. Not to Wally."
Betrayal and deathSome sources suggest that Wally herself might have introduced the painter to his future wife. Edith Harms’s home was not far from Schiele’s studio in Vienna. Her family, though not very well-off, was decent and respectable.
- Egon Schiele. Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, 1917
- Egon Schiele. Edith Schiele, the Artist’s Wife, Seated, 1915
Photo source: rupo.ru
A girl from the lower class, she turned out to be stronger than anyone could have expected. Schiele’s wicked blow did not knock her down. Quite the contrary, she trained to be a nurse and then worked in a war hospital in Vienna. At the end of 1917, while visiting Croatia with a Red Cross mission, she died of scarlet fever in the town of Sinj.
Film, film, filmNeedless to say, this story, so rich in scandals, intrigues, passions, and tragedies, could not fail to inspire novelists and scriptwriters. Schiele’s biography and his relations with Wally Neuzil have become the subject of a number of books (Lewis Crofts’s The Pornographer of Vienna, Joanna Scott’s Arrogance) and films — feature films as well as documentaries.
There are other traces the shameless couple have left behind. In Tottendorf, Neuzil’s hometown, there is a square named after her. And Wally’s portrait painted in 1912 even left mark in history. Following the case of changing its ownership, 44 countries signed, in 1998, the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.
- Egon Schiele. Self-Portrait with Physalis, 1912
- Egon Schiele. Portrait of Wally Neuzil, 1912
- A still from 'Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden'
- Egon Schiele. From: nachrichten.at
- Egon Schiele. Woman in Black Stockings, 1913
- A still from ‘Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden’