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Dead Mother I, 1910

Leopold Museum,
Oil, pencil on wood
32.1×25.7 cm


  • Egon Schiele

    (Tulln 1890–1918 Vienna)

Currently on display at OG3
This small-scale panel painting is arguably one the most enigmatic and yet most expressive and most deeply moving works by Egon Schiele (1890–1918), who was only 20 years old at the time of its creation. According to Arthur Roessler (1877–1955), Schiele painted the work on Christmas Day 1910 within only a few hours. A few months later, the artist himself called this first version of Dead Mother one of his “best pictures”. A cocoon of broad brushstrokes encloses the unborn child, whose head, viewed from below, and left hand, raised in what looks like a gesture of blessing, form the brightly glowing center of the composition. Resuming the movement of the circling brushstrokes, the head and hand of the mother, who gives the work its title, represent a stark contrast: Rendered in cool, dark shades with sunken features and refracting eyes, she seems to be saying goodbye; the supposedly protective gesture of the emaciated hand adds to the impression of dying. Will her demise seal the fate of the unborn child or will its bonds be broken by her death? The painting allows for both interpretations. In Dead Mother I, Schiele articulates a remarkable juxtaposition of sexuality and death, employing the mother-and-child theme which will continue to accompany him over the following years, for instance in Mother and Child, 1912, Blind Mother, 1914, or Mother with Two Children II, 1915.


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Object data

  • Egon Schiele
Dead Mother I
Art movement
Oil, pencil on wood
32.1×25.7 cm
Monogrammend and dated upper right: S. 10.
Credit line
Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 475
Inventory access
Contributed to the Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung in 1994
Selection of Reference works
  • Hundertwasser - Schiele. Imagine Tomorrow, hrsg. von Hans-Peter Wipplinger, Köln 2020 (Leopold Museum, Wien, 21.02.2020-31.08.2020).
  • Rudolf Leopold: Egon Schiele. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, hrsg. von Elisabeth Leopold, München 2020.
  • Wien 1900. Aufbruch in die Moderne, hrsg. von Hans-Peter Wipplinger, Wien 2019 (Ausst.-Kat. Leopold Museum, Wien, ab 15.03.2019).
  • Tobias Natter: Egon Schiele, Sämtliche Gemälde 1909-1918, Köln 2017.
  • Egon Schiele. Melancholie und Provokation, hrsg. von Elisabeth/Diethard Leopold, Wien 2011 (Ausst.-Kat. Leopold Museum, Wien, 23.09.2011–19.04.2012).
  • Der Lyriker Egon Schiele. Briefe und Gedichte 1910–1912 aus der Sammlung Leopold, hrsg. von Rudolf Leopold/Elisabeth Leopold, München 2008.
  • Jane Kallir: Egon Schiele - The complete works. Expanded edition including a biography and a catalogue raisonné, New York 1998.
  • Otto Kallir: Egon Schiele. Oeuvre Catalogue of the Paintings, New York 1966.
  • Otto Nirenstein: Egon Schiele. Persönlichkeit und Werk, Berlin 1930.
Catalogue raisonne
  • J. Kallir 1990/1998: P177
  • Leopold 1972/2020: 167, Taf. 64
  • Natter 2017: 45
  • O. Kallir 1966: 115
  • O. Kallir (Nirenstein) 1930: 75

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Provenance research
Leopold Museum i

Arthur Roessler, Wien (vor 1913-1951);
Dr. Rudolf Leopold, Wien (1951-1994); (1)
Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung, Wien (1994).

  1. Sonja Niederacher, Egon Schiele. „Tote Mutter“ I, Dossier vom 30.04.2011, S. 3f.; Diethard Leopold, Rudolf Leopold. Kunsterkenner-Kunstsammler-Museumsgründer. Brennen für die Kunst, Wien 2018, S. 17f.

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