In 1914, Egon Schiele’s works were exhibited around Germany as part of the travelling Werkbund Exhibition, and in Rome, Brussels and Paris. In the summer, he started making drypoint etchings.
Krumau an der Moldau (The Small Town III) (1913-14) is based on a view over the town of Krumau from Castle Hill, which is on the opposite bank of the river. Comparison with photographs reveals how faithful this painting is, but Schiele replaced a more modern block of flats at the lower right with a building which appears more in keeping with the mediaeval town.
Although Schiele has continued to remove much of the depth from his view, its buildings still retain some degree of perspective, as they appear to rise up the bank of the river.
Old houses in Krumau (1914) is one of a group of drawings and paintings which Schiele made of Flössberg, a suburb on the plateau to the south of Krumau. Others are careful drawings; this he has painted in with watercolour and gouache.
The following year, 1915, was more momentous in many ways. Early in the year he had another retrospective in a Vienna gallery, and some of his watercolours and drawings were shown at the Kunsthaus in Zurich. In mid-July, he married – not to Wally his model, but to Edith Harms, who lived opposite his studio.
Just four days after the wedding, Schiele started his compulsory military service, visiting Prague, Neuhaus in Bohemia, then returning to Vienna, where he resumed his painting.
Krumau Town Crescent (Small Town V) (1915) is based on a drawing of Krumau which Schiele had made the previous year, and is the first of three painted versions. This crescent of houses is viewed from Krumau Castle Hill, and contains faithful details such as washing hanging on the lines.
Crescent of Houses II (Island Town) (1915) is Schiele’s second version of this crescent of houses, in which he has removed them from their original setting. He has also changed the visual emphasis on different elements within the crescent. For example, the white-walled courtyard in the centre of the previous version has lost emphasis, becoming slightly smaller and much duller in tone.
His viewpoint has been adjusted to make the larger blocks at the upper left stand clear of the river. Other houses at the upper right have been removed altogether, and replaced with water. The washing lines along the bank of the river at the lower left have been replaced with an avenue of trees. Overall, this transports this urban neighbourhood onto a comma-shaped island.
House Wall on the River (1915) is based on a view of the riverside wall of the former church of St Jost (Jodocus), on the River Moldau, which Schiele had sketched in 1914 during one of his visits to Krumau. This was deconsecrated and used as a house in 1791, and like the House with Shingle Roof below, has an air of slow dereliction.
Its lighter centre yard, adorned with brightly-coloured washing, is the only sign of life, and the building merges into its surroundings above and at both sides.
House with Shingle Roof (Old House II) (1915) is based on drawings of a house which still stands at 30 Rooseveltova ulice in Krumau, although in reality it is one of a row of houses; those drawings were made in 1914 in front of the motif.
The following year, Schiele painted this in his studio, transplanting this one house and setting it on its own amid grassland in the countryside. He has also removed some outbuildings which cluttered its facade, and replaced its rather messy frontage with a more orderly fence and a row of trees. This now gives the impression of a house in slow decay, with the wonderfully rich texture of its shingles.
In addition to these townscapes, Schiele continued to draw and paint figures. Crouching Woman with Green Headscarf (1914) uses limited colour to frame the subject, and to draw attention to her lips, nipples, and navel. She is further sexualised with high-heeled boots and stockings.
Schiele’s approach to family portraits, as shown in this Mother and Child from 1914, has diverged greatly from those of Klimt. The mother is gaunt and looks down rather than at her child, who stares doll-like into the distance. There is a decidedly sinister look to the pair: this is not an image of a happy relationship.
Rudolph Leopold (2004) Egon Schiele, Landscapes, Prestel. ISBN 978 3 7913 8346 0.