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In The Poet (1911) the artist, wearing a large black coat, is flattened against a dark streaked background. His elongated fingers grasp the wrist of one hand, which is held above his chest. His raised knees expose his red-tipped penis. His twisted, almost severed head, barely supported by a reed-thin neck and resting on a white pillow, falls onto his shoulder at an unnaturally sharp right angle. His hair juts straight out, as if he were electrocuted. His forehead is deeply grooved, one ear is flat, the other sticks out, his eyes are half-closed between high-arched crescent eyebrows, his nose is smudged, his lips thick and tight. Schiele was actually a published poet. Like the painter, the poet in his most contorted picture suffers the martyrdom of art.

Death and the Maiden (1915-1916) shows Death, clad in black but with gnarled bare legs, clutching the maiden with his face pressed into the back of her head. Her pencil-thin arms embrace him as she leans forward on bended knees and desperately rests her head on his comfortless chest. The hem of her primitive, Wagnerian-heroine skirt is cut into rough jagged points and seems to cut into her soft thigh. Though doomed, she holds on for dear life.

In Mother with Two Children (1917) the mother is seated before a cloudy orange background, wearing a wide-hooded monkish robe. She has an unmaternal, skull-like, hollow-eyed head and desperately clasps her two small children. The older child, moribund and grey-faced, with bushy black hair, reclines on her lap. The infant, swaddled in a colourful striped suit, has black eyes and a jowly white face. In this ghoulish, spooky picture, strongly influenced by Edvard Munch, the children, in a death grip, seem inevitably doomed.

The parents in The Family (1918) are naked. The handsome muscular husband in the rear, with shoulders tilted downward and right arm dropping over his bent leg, looks straight out at the viewer. The dark-haired full-bosomed wife, leaning against him, also has high bent legs and looks off to the right with a mournful expression. Their bulbous-headed infant sits between his mother’s legs and also gazes off to the right. All three, though not distorted, are physically connected but emotionally detached.

Schiele’s comparatively gentle painting influenced Stanley Spencer’s naked family in Double Nude Portrait: The Artist and His Second Wife (1938). In this version the bespectacled, hairy-chested husband’s dangling sexual parts press against the thigh of his wife. Reclining across the painting, with arms supporting her head and legs spread, she fills the space in front of him. The husband looks down, the wife looks toward the left. As in Schiele, they are physically close but emotionally disconnected.
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