Opening of Egon Schiele’s Birthplace in Tulln

Posted June 18th, 2013 under Austria, Modernism, Shows

The birthplace of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) opened in Tulln on June 15, 2013. For the first time, the redesigned living quarters of the Schiele family offer an opportunity of authentic insights into Egon Schiele’s childhood. The son of the railway station inspector Adolf Schiele, Egon Schiele spent the first eleven years of his life, starting on June 12, 1890, in the apartment at the train station that formed part of his father’s employment. This time period amounts to more than a third of the lifespan of the artist, who died at the age of 28, and influenced Schiele profoundly. Both the experiences of his childhood, the social and family framework, and the new phenomenon of mobility as exemplified by the Tulln train station, had a decisive influence on Schiele and form an important foundation for his entire artistic output.

The Schiele family lived at the Tulln train station for almost 17 years (January 1887 to the autumn of 1904). This period could be entitled “Rise and Fall”, since the hope-inspiring appointment of the father Adolf Schiele as station inspector in Tulln was followed by a dramatic period of illness and professional dismantling. Only weeks after being forced to leave the apartment in the train station, the artist’s father died of syphilis in Klosterneuburg, leaving the family in chaos.

Egon Schiele developed an early enthusiasm for modern technology and progress, and as a boy he expressed this artistically in hundreds of drawings of the locomotives and railway wagons he was permanently confronted with at the station. These drawings, very few of which are extant today, form the first proof of Schiele’s outstanding talent, document great interest and curiosity about technical progress, and embodied Schiele’s artistic foundation for the coming years. When Schiele began to attend the secondary schools in Krems and Klosterneuburg and then embarked upon a great artistic career in Vienna, he took his experience and experiences with him on his path through life.

Design of the Rooms

The newly designed rooms of the train station apartment tell numerous moving stories about the Schiele family, with the help of a modern audio system. The texts were written by Schiele himself, his sisters Gertrude and Melanie, his mother Marie and contemporary witnesses. The design concept avoids authentic reconstruction, and yet the character of a middle-class apartment is conveyed, allowing the visitor to experience the inhabitants’ awareness of life directly. An interactive room of reflection at the end of the circuit offers an opportunity to learn more about the lives and customs of the Schiele family at home, and about the city of Tulln at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century.

Egon Schiele in Tulln

Apart from the Birthplace, one can encounter the most famous son of Tulln at the Egon Schiele Museum. The Museum unites about 60 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings from Schiele’s first creative periods, some of them never on view in public before. The Museum focuses on presenting the early works, from his childhood in Tulln to the school years in Klosterneuburg to his studies at the Academy in Vienna and the founding of the Neukunstgruppe (“New Art Group”) in 1909. Lately, there has been increased interest in the early works in Austria and abroad, not least because of the recently published book Egon Schiele. Der Anfang (Egon Schiele. The Beginning, edited by Christian Bauer, Hirmer Verlag Munich). Starting in 2014, the Birthplace and the Schiele Museum will be complemented by the Schiele Path, which leads visitors to various sites of Schiele’s youth in Tulln. Thus, Tulln is transformed into a Schiele location that is unique throughout the world, illustrating the first important period in the artist’s life in an authentic manner.

Together with Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele (1890-1918) is among the most important artists of Viennese Modernism. Despite his early death of “Spanish influenza” on October 30, 1918 at the age of only 28, his oeuvre encompassed far more than 3,000 works of art at this point. His deathbed prophecy that his paintings would be exhibited in all the great museums of the world was to come true in an impressive manner.

Photo ® Hans Eder.