This artwork is one of over 100 self portraits that Schiele created. Many of them depicted the artist naked. Schiele would work with a mirror but his images are distorted and exaggerated. This Self Portrait with Black Vase is no exception. Schiele's face appears gaunt, sallow and angular. His eyes are dark and enlarged within the deep sockets. The expression is hard to read. The fingers, splayed like scissors, are elongated and bony. They draw the viewers attention. The pose is uncomfortable and challenging to hold, like many of the poses in his other paintings and self portraits.
Despite Schiele's fascination with portraying himself in this way, he was described as "handsome" and "well maintained" by others. He was even described as "shy" and sensitive" despite the excessive amount of self portraiture and numerous nude paintings, which have often been described as exhibitionism. It seems that Schiele enjoyed pushing the boundaries of art and challenging ideas of beauty.
In some ways this portrait is unusual, there is less use of line and more use of colour than in other paintings. Schiele has been described as a master of line drawing and often use it to create movement and mood. In this Self Portrait with Black Vase, Schiele's image is richer and more colourful. Many of his other portraits have a more simplistic, linear style. He was influenced by Gustav Klimt and also Expressionism. In this Self Portrait with Black Vase the viewer can see how the use of colour, exaggerated gestures and distortion was typical of the expressionist movement and is used to depict emotional response and subjectivity.
Challenging yet strangely compelling, Egon Schile's Self Portrait with Black Vase is as intriguing now as it was during his short but prolific career.