A wonderful line


Dear Artist,

Anyone who takes a lingering look at the work of Egon Schiele can’t help but be impressed. A brief, bright star in Austrian art (he died in a flu epidemic in 1918, age 28), his drawings, his painted drawings, and his drawn paintings are electrifying. Depraved subject matter aside, his is a line to behold.


“Seated Woman in Violet Stockings”
1917 painting by Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Egon’s markers move slowly and intelligently, often nervously toward description. His form-follows-function lines are an education. An understanding of anatomy is combined with the sensibility of Art Nouveau. Bones morph, flesh purples and becomes visceral. Line holds colour in place. Expression is often understated — blank-faced or stunned lovers stare from their trysts. Children, like dolls, are caught in a nutcracker trance. Where Egon could have been sentimental, or go into the kind of detail that he would have no trouble performing, he resists — some eyes and mouths are mere smudges. At other times, particularly in self-portraits, the subject grimaces or looks out into the world with a life-condemning sneer. It was a time for the extreme pose, the angled arm, the provocative leg, the terror of pointlessness and the boredom of love. Behind academic knowledge there was the vital lisp of idiosyncrasy.


“Autumn Tree with Fuchsias”
1909 oil on canvas, 88.5 x 88.5 cm
by Egon Schiele

Mere facility does not an artist make. Just because you can do something does not always mean you ought to do it. Egon left out, understated or embellished what he felt like embellishing. Like the senior artist and definer of the form, Gustav Klimt, (who died the same year) he was not afraid of decoration. The curls and angles of the natural landscape were the great teachers. But unlike Klimt’s surface opulence and gold leaf, Egon’s brilliance simply rides on line. His facility was natural but practiced. In his life-drawing he exercised and then perfected his confidence. He hated art school and left prematurely (The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna) but it was in these classes that his capability grew. Some would call his an extreme talent. Apart from that he learned how to draw lines.


Self-portrait by Egon Schiele

Best regards,


PS: “At present, I am mainly observing the physical motion of mountains, water, trees and flowers. One is everywhere reminded of similar movements in the human body, of similar impulses of joy and suffering in plants.” (Egon Schiele to Franz Hauer) “I am so rich that I must give myself away.” (Egon Schiele, 1890-1918)

Esoterica: In Austria and Germany Art Nouveau was known as “Jugendstil” — after a magazine called “Die Jugend” (Youth). The term “Liberty” as used for Art Nouveau in Italy came from the popular store in London, England. The “Maison de l’Art Nouveau,” from which the movement took its name, was an interior-decorator gallery that opened in Paris in 1896.

This letter was originally published as “A wonderful line” on December 9, 2003.

If you find these letters beneficial, please share and encourage your friends to subscribe. The Painter’s Keys is published primarily by a team of volunteers, with a goal to reach as many creative people as possible. Thanks for your friendship. Subscribe here!

“A line is a dot that went for a walk.” (Paul Klee)



  1. Sara, I don’t like the new format. You’re dad was old-school, gave us all the info in the email but now you force me to give you eye-balls. Perhaps smart in 2016, but I respected you’re dad not only for his work but how he embraced new technology with an integrity that succeeds the tech itself (techies are only tool makers, they don’t actually do anything). Give us the whole essay, I will listen. Keep this up, and I’m out…

    • I love his work and Sarah you keep up with the latest technology and your own presentation of these letters
      Bob Abrahams
      Perth Australia

    • I felt the same – loved reading the entire article in my inbox.

      Where we differ is the “keep this up, and I’m out…”

      We must Not forget that this is UNPAID work – at least I have never paid for it!? When I wondered why Sara would change her fathers past practice ..I guessed that by forcing us to visit a web page, Sara gets an accurate count on how many followers are reading these beautiful gifts of text given so freely and unselfishly

      I suspect if numbers were to drop ….Sara could fill her time easily with much other much more self fulfilling things ?

      • I find so much of value here. I connect from my email and from Facebook on my tablet and phone and the format is excellent, a crisp functionality that is respectful and complimentary to the powerful and enlightened content. Thank you for all your hard work.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with CINDI.
        These letters are a gift, and I would never look the gift-horse in the mouth.

    • I agree! The format is disjointed and annoying; it distracts from the wonderfully interesting content. I do so appreciate that you are carrying on in the tradition of your dad though. Thank you!

    • I love what you are doing, SARA . . .
      . . . very much in the vein of your dad. His and your letters are inspiring. I am 91 years old; made a living as a writer and management consultant; collected art for 50 years; took up painting at 75; and love what you say and do. This email is prompted by John’s “annoyance and threat”. Know your obligation, if any, is to the group, not to an individual. I’ve learned more about art, artists, and the Work of Art from THE PAINTER’S KEYS than any other source. Be strong in your ideals, MIKE

    • I, too, am less than happy with having to go on-line to read the whole letter. I am often not able to be on the web, so that means that I can only read what happens to fit into the email. Otherwise, I love getting the letters. Thank you for keeping them going.

    • I am sorry if this is rude. But I am tired of the discussion about the format. We need to each decide what we want to do with our lives. If Sara is doing this, guess what, she decides how she wants to do it. The end. Can we move on and discuss art on this site??? If this format offends you, you can stop viewing it or decide that you will put up and do the hard work of figuring out how to see it. It is a choice we have. So can we now talk about the lovely lines?

    • I love the new format. Times change, formats change, tech changes- but you and your dad’s message remain the same; smart, concise, inspiring. I learn so much and I am so grateful that you are continuing this tradition and enlightening us. The format you chose has to be what works for you in your life.
      With much respect, Katharine Montstream, Burlington, Vermont

  2. Sara, I think the new format must be excellent for smaller screens on IPhones and tablets and the like. Crisp and fresh. I love that we still have Dorothy and that you continue to share the gems that your Dad sent out to the art listeners he attracted.

    And I like that you give us links for further study. Cheers.

    • Judith Rae Shamp on

      I totally agree with you!
      Sara you rock! Your commitment to bringing beautiful gifts is much valued and necessary for keeping the flame alive….no matter the format nor technological advances.

    • Sophia Moore on

      I’m with all those, like Eva, Bob and Cindi, who are delighted you have continued your dad’s wonderful letters, and I am happy with the format. Thank you so very much.

  3. I loved what Paul Klee said: ”A line is a dot that went for a walk”. So true. Try drawing with your left hand and see how MUCH more interesting your attention to a line’s direction will be.

    In my opinion, this newsletter, like a ‘good line’, it has to keep moving the eye..to stay in the only real time there is….NOW! Thank you, Sara, for all your intention and thoughtfulness to give a gift every week.

  4. I am a furniture designer and musician, so on the fringes of what you masters do, BUT I get so much insight applicable to my world from your offerings. Thank you SO much…and MY world is a high tech one, so this format works fine for me!

    Bless you!

  5. New way is great for this non-techy 83 year old. All very clean and easy. The simple access to recent letters and to everything back to 2000 is really handy. Good stuff from here, Sara!!

  6. Jamuna Snitkin on

    We all know that the only constant in this world is CHANGE. Embrace it and flow with the moment. Fight it and you get to be stuck. I am so happy to be a part of this community of artists. I have gained so much from your letters, Sara. Thank you.

  7. Love this format, and thank you, not much free in this life, I am truly grateful. Yes,, Egon may have dropped out of Art school, but not before soaking up those life classes, something that seems sadly absent from the British art school curriculum, I was taught the old way and there really isn’t any substitute. I shall now take cover!

  8. Listen to comments and advice by all means, but always always remember it’s your website, your blog – write and present it how you want. For what it’s worth, I love it – it’s one of the day’s treasures to me and my painting.

  9. The new format is lovely. Real typography, clean white spaces and images large enough to actually see. The words and thoughts are, of course, what we all come here for, but what a gift to have them presented so beautifully. Thank you, Sara, for this wonderful source of inspiration, insight and knowledge!

  10. Love the new format. Great for the iPad and the iPhone. I pick it up through Facebook and link to it on a device. Thank you for reposting your dads columns as I came to find him late, so these are all new to me.

  11. Sara….I appreciate all that you do to provide these interesting insights about artists of all kinds. Use whatever way you need to make it work for you and leave those naysayers behind…eventually they will catch up.
    Mil gracias!

  12. Sara…I enjoy the new format. And I enjoy every one of your posts and always learn something or look at
    something differently by what you have shared with us. Keep up the great work-it comes from the heart
    and it shows!

    • Just want to join the chorus of gratitude for this wonderful gift. I did notice the change in format but was kind of glad I took me to the web page so I can enjoy the comments and the other offerings there. peace anna

  13. Grateful as a subscriber for you carrying on the legacy of Painterskey. I print out your letters for a friend who is an artist and has been caring for her husband who is blind and can barely hear. She does not have a computer and it is the only input she has to encourage her to still work. Thank you.

    • I too am grateful for each article you share with us. I am delighted each time I see another one in my email. I started reading your Dad’s letters 10 years ago and there have been times that my only connection to art and artists was through these letters.
      So for you to carry on this loving legacy is just incredible.
      Thank you so much Sara.

  14. Sara
    I do not care what the format is and the differences between you and your dad. My appreciation is for your continuing to enlighten us and connect with us. Namaste’

  15. These letters are fun and informative. There is always some gem buried within that I can dig out and keep for myself. Example: artists I’ve never heard of before, with images of their work and words from their mouths…
    …Like a free pass to an infinite museum.
    Thank you for sharing these letters!

  16. Schiele went way beyond just drawing or painting an innovative image. He could encapsulate the psychology of the subject. A really rare talent taken by the Spanish flu when so young.
    And your mobile responsive web is really appreciated.

  17. Sara-I want to add my absolute thanks. I don’t care what format it’s in I look forward to your letters. They have sustained me, inspired me, comforted me, puzzled me, angered and bored me-the full gamut. I’ve passed the link on to countless people. I have relied on them for years and look forward to each one.

  18. Personally, I preferred the previous format, but is it really such a hardship to click to get the entire article?! I have enjoyed reading many of the articles from you and your father, but have rarely responded in print.

    This “issue”, if it even is one, is ridiculous. If we are interested in seeing what you have presented, just “click” to the next page. Otherwise, don’t.

    Thanks so much for your efforts, and please keep up this interesting letter.

  19. Brian Dickinson on

    I always read your articles Sara ,some with more attention than others but I would never presume to suggest how you should do it .
    Regards Brian Dickinson

  20. andrea nelson cormack on

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article and access to more. Love Klimt is good to see more of the great Egon Schiele, too!

  21. the new format is great! Pressing a button isn’t a huge inconvenience. the letters are terrific..i usually read them when they arrive. i live in nyc in the village and love the way the letters take me across the country often to BC and other places. I am about to go a second time to the san juan islands to paint the ferries on a grant. great place even with the rains!

  22. Patricia Wafer on

    The new format is great and only one click away from the email for heaven’s sake. My time on earth is precious but not THAT precious!!!! You are doing a great job on YOUR letters to us and obviously have a large following. Thanks so much for all the work you put into this blog. I don’t have time to look at too many art blogs and I often find something interesting or inspiring on this one.

  23. “At other times, particularly in self-portraits, the subject grimaces or looks out into the world with a life-condemning sneer.” Not a ‘pretty picture’? OMG. What will we do? He drew/painted actual human reality including its suffering and disgust? Damn. Makes it more interesting to me. I can’t stand art that is ONLY pretty.
    “It was a time for the extreme pose, the angled arm, the provocative leg, the terror of pointlessness and the boredom of love.” Frankly- since I chose to be single (focusing my relationship energies on ART) but am very active on the sex/lovemaking front- boredom only happens when you are bored. So think about what you are bored with. And why you are bored. And maybe you won’t be bored anymore.
    And I never read the post in my email and always clicked on through to the site- so I could read the readers comments- including my own. Like commenting on the 2 most interesting lines in this letter… which nobody else did.

  24. I too, thank you for your gift of such a thought inspiring , weekly read and I am thankful that you share the timeless words of your father as well. I love Egon Schieles’ simplicity and emotion in his line. Toulouse – Lautrec is also one of my favourites.

  25. “Autumn tree with fuschias”…am I the only one, or did anyone else notice the vine/branch on the left shaped like two breasts (very subliminal). Sara, please stay with your lovely new format.


        • Gabriella Morrison on

          We all heard you. Now please stop shouting! It won’t make your opinion any more understandable.

  26. “Autumn Tree With Fuscias” is not meant to be a photo-representation. The ‘free’ composition, balance, contrasts in emphatic lines – it’s a creative work of the imagination.
    Sara, your weekly letters are appreciated, no matter which format you use. Thank you for being.

    • I was absolutely delighted to research further the work of Egon Schiele after seeing the illustrations included here. I am a huge fan of Victor Ambrus and immediately (to me anyway) saw a similarity in the work of these two men – line wise. I don’t find Egon’s images offensive when I am
      observing an artist of such immense talent.

      And thank you, Sara, for continuing in your dad’s footsteps.

  27. How nice to see that you broached the work of Egon Schiele, a shame that he died so young and before he could produce more work. Work considered pornographic by some but masterful. He was able to make his feelings appear in his sketches and colored sketches. Keep on doing what you do your way. Especially like the inclusion of work by the featured artists.

  28. I love this blog, PERIOD. I’m grateful to be the recipient of this free gift that inspires, stimulates, and educates me, that stirs my creative cauldron and feeds my soul. I am grateful for everyone who labored to create this inspirational product for the love of arts, so that I may experience intellectual joy and happiness. Thank You, Sara, for this beautiful tribute to Egon Schiele … I love his drawings! Keep it coming. Peace, :-)

  29. Format : 1st world problem! let it go.

    I had the great privilege of seeing Schiele’s work projected on the mined walls in Baux de Provence along with Gustav Klimt a couple of years ago. Yes the content is somewhat brutal but the execution is brilliant. I had already read about him at the AGO. There is so much said in the irregular lines. They tell another side of the story in a such a minimalist way.

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