Egon Schiele, “Krumau Town Crescent I”, 1915, Oil on Canvas, 109.7 x 140 cmIsrael Museum, Jerusalem, Israel.
In 1910 Egon Schiele decided to flee the urban bustle of Vienna for a yearnful sojourn in the rural town of Krumau, the birthplace of his mother.The town is now modern-day Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic, but in the early twentieth century, it was still part of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian empire. Accompanied by artistic companions Anton Peschka and Ervin Osen, Krumau provoked a creative spark in Schiele, inspiring a vast amount of artistic output for the rest of his short life. But rather than providing a peaceful backdrop of pastoral existence, Krumau enhanced Schiele’s preoccupation with isolation and unease.
His quest to explore the spiritual essence of his environment is Expressionist in notion, revealing the hidden core of human experience through visual exaggeration and subjective insight. In “Krumau Town Crescent 1”, the claustrophobic nature of the unsteady throng of houses on the Moldau river emphasises the compressed nature of this decaying urban vista. Solid vertical lines support the waterside settlements, yet are helplessly undermined by the sinuous curves of their own crumpled roofs. This remote town would serve as a visual conduit for his own melancholy reflections.
Despite his longing for a provincial idyll, Schiele and his friends were to encounter a degree of hostility from some of the more conservative residents of Krumau. However, this didn’t prevent him from planning a permanent move there in 1911 alongside his partner and muse, Wally Neuzil. For a time they enjoyed a peaceful existence in their little cottage by the river, but his paintings remained haunted by the town’s ancient winding streets and compact medieval design.