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This monumental, gorgeous, two-part book, a biography and a catalogue raisonné, is the definitive tome on Egon Schiele (1890-1917), who died at the impossibly tragic age of 27. That a 700-page volume is devoted to his oeuvre says something about his youthful accomplishments, which are rivaled perhaps only by those of Georges Seurat. Author Jane Kallir is the daughter of Otto Kallir, a Viennese art historian and dealer who emigrated to New York in 1931 and opened the Galerie St. Etienne, which showcased the controversial, influential works of such artists as Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt along with Schiele. Kallir possesses the rare ability to analyze even the most delicate matters with forthrightness, disinterest, and perspicacity. Her lack of cant distinguishes her from the many passionate Schiele mythmakers, and yet there is nothing dull or cold about her writing. With characteristic understatement, she laments "the regrettable tendency of later authors to discredit their predecessors," while acknowledging that "meaningful contributions to Schiele scholarship have been made at every turn." In the long biography, Kallir sifts through a century of potboiling prose to capture the factual past in all its mystery and sadness. She speaks of Schiele's subjects--"the quintessential adolescent experiences of sexual awakening and spiritual exploration"--and remarks, "Neither before nor after Schiele does one often encounter an artist who addresses such issues so directly." Unlike her more reserved predecessors, Kallir openly discusses every nuance of Schiele's personal, sexual, pictorial, political, and social development with subtlety and candor. And in the catalogue raisonné, she offers an essential work of scholarship. Filled with color plates, including the sexually controversial ones of pubescent children and copulating couples, this is the Schiele book that will last. --Peggy Moorman
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