When Egon was 15, his father died of syphilis. Egon became a ward of his uncle, who, though distressed by Egon's lack of interest in academic studies, recognised his passion and talent for art. Egon was accepted into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts at the age of sixteen.
Due to various troubles he left the Academy in 1909. By this time, however, Schiele was already participating in public exhibitions and was well acquainted with Gustav Klimt, who was both an inspiration and a friend to him throughout his life.
Once free of the constraints of the anachronistic and conservative Academy, Schiele began to explore, through his work, not only the human form, but also human sexuality. Many found the explicitness of his works shocking at the time.
Wally Neuzil, one of Schiele's models, became his close friend and eventually his lover. Together they moved to Neulengbach, a suburb of Vienna, seeking inspirational surroundings and an inexpensive studio in which to work in. Their unconventional lifestyle, however, was not appreciated by the more conservative townspeople. Schiele was imprisoned for twenty-four days after being falsely accused of seducing a minor. This charge was eventually dropped, but he was found guilty of "disseminating pornographic art" to children. In 1915, Schiele married Edith Harms, a woman who lived with her parents across the street from his studio. This change necessitated the termination of his four year relationship with the ever faithful Wally.
In spite of World War I, Schiele was able to pursue his artistic endeavors. His output was prodigious, his work reflecting the maturity of an artist in full commmand of his talents. The Vienna Secession Show of 1918, where Schiele exhibited in the main hall and for which he had designed the poster, brought him great success. During the last year of his life he also had successful shows in Zurich, Prague, and Dresden.
At the end of 1918, the influenza epidemic that claimed over twenty million lives worldwide reached Vienna. Edith, who was six months pregnant, succumbed to the disease on October 28, followed three days later by her husband. He was twenty-eight years old. In the few days before the death of his wife Schiele drew a few sketches of her - they were to be his last works.