Artophilia  •  4221   •  7 June 2017

Who was Wally Neuzil?

Woman of a bright, penetrating look and slightly raised corners of mouth. Chestnut hair that create a frame for her slim face and white collar surrounding her slender neck. Portrait painted by Egon Schiele in 1912, called ‘Viennese Mona Lisa’, is today her most famous image. Wally, or more precisely: Walburga Neužil, not only was Schiele’s greatest muse, but also his lover between 1911 and 1915. Her hypnotizing eyes and characteristic fawn hair are well known up until now, but her own life still remains a mystery. Who was Wally Neuzil?

Wally Neuzil

Wally Neuzil at Gmunden | 1913, Wien Museum

Neuzil was born in August 1894 in a poor family that lived in Tattendorf, town in Austria. After her father’s premature death (Joseph Neuzil), she moved to Vienne, where in 1911 she first met Egon Schiele. Sixteen year old Wally, who was then Gustav Klimt’s model, started to pose also for Schiele, which actually brought them closer together. Shortly after that, they began to live together.

Wally Neuzil

Egon Schiele Wally Neuzil | 1912, Leopold Museum, Vienna

As Schiele and Wally wanted to run away from claustrophobic, Viennese environment, they moved to Krumau (Český Krumlov in Czech Republic). After all, inhabitants were outraged by their lifestyle and got them thrown out from the town. Viennese couple moved then to Neugelbach, but again: they met with a strongly conservative approach, and, as a result, Schiele was accused of seducing under age model in 1912. When the police came to his studio, they founded over 100 of paintings, which were considered as pornographic. The painter was arrested and kept in custody for less than a month. Wally strongly supported him at that time by delivering food for him and materials thanks to which he still could paint.

Unexpectedly, their relationship ended in April 1915, while Egon decided to marry bourgeois, Edith Harms. However, as he didn’t want to lose contact with his ex-muse, he offered Wally that they could still spend holidays together. She refused and they never met again.

During First World War she became a nurse in Dalmatia (currently: part of Croatia), where she contracted scarlet fever. Wally Neuzil died in 1917 at the age of 23.

Translated by: Weronika Kursa