Color Connection #1
Curator's Corner, 8/19/2012

Egon Schiele Cosmetics

Egon-schiele-makeupDid you know there's an entire line of cosmetics based on the work of Austrian artist Egon Schiele?  Neither did I until a few months ago, when one of the company's representatives emailed me (full disclosure:  I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for posting about this line).  Sadly, the packaging is fairly non-descript.  If the company is able to use Schiele's name I'm not sure why they wouldn't put his images on the packaging. 

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) was an Expessionist artist best known for his highly sexualized, grotesque figurative images, mostly of women but many self-portraits as well.  By his untimely death at the age of 28, he had produced over 3,000 works on paper and 300 paintings. Let's take a look at some and try to figure out what it is about them that inspired a whole cosmetics brand.

Reclining Woman with Blond Hair, 1912:

Reclining-woman-with-blonde-hair-1912

Woman in Black Stockings, 1913:

Schiele-black-stockings
(images from wikipaintings.org)

Seated Nude, 1914:

Schiele-seated-nude
(image from egonschiele.tumblr.com)

The Egon Schiele cosmetics website refers to these women as "sensuous beauties", whereas I find their frank depictions to be more blatantly sexual rather than sensuous.  From a color standpoint, the decision to make Schiele the inspiration is...unusual.  Schiele is not known for his use of color, or at least bright, pigmented color.  The website maintains that "the colors have been carefully chosen and developed to perfectly compliment the lustrous hues of Schiele's paintings and drawings."  I haven't seen Schiele's work in person so the colors may in fact be "lustrous", but online they look washed out and diluted - even strong shades like red:

Standing Woman in Red, 1913:

Schiele-woman-in-red

Here are a couple more of his more colorful works, which still aren't as vibrant as those of most other Expressionists.

Portrait of Edith Schiele, 1915:

Schiele-edith

Seated Woman with Bent Knee (Artist's Wife), 1917:

Schiele-seated-woman-green
(images from egonschiele.tumblr.com)

There's nothing wrong with muted makeup, of course, but somehow I don't think that's what the line was aiming for.  And while the website shows color swatches of their products next to some of Schiele's drawings, they don't correspond exactly; it seems like they took random works and put them next to the swatches, and then gave them a vaguely Schiele-related name on a whim.  (An excellent example of a literal interpretation of color from paintings is Rescue Beauty Lounge's limited edition nail polish collection that dares not speak the artist's name).

Ultimately, I don't think this line has a strong identity - it appears to be Schiele-inspired in name only.  The website notes that "application of Egon Schiele cosmetics will make you look and feel like the creation of a famous artist."  That's a nice sentiment, but it could be any famous artist.  If I were writing the ad copy I'd make it specifically about Schiele and say something about how the cosmetics would make you feel/look like one of the women in his work (even though I'm not necessarily sure most women would want to strive for that), or at least, capture the artist's unabashed, bold spirit.

What do think of both Schiele and the makeup line inspired by him?  I think it's an extremely odd choice!

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