Learning the hard way or Egon's fiasco with grades
Here you find out why Egon had a hard time in school and who recognized his artistic gifts; why he flunked out without flunking out and why he was too talented for the school of arts and crafts.
He was supposed to go into engineering. At least that is what his father wanted. Egon, for his part, wanted to be an artist and he was ready to fight for that goal. Egon went to school armed with pencils and brushes. Instead of excelling in writing and arithmetic, he secretly made pictures under his desk. The teachers complained. His parents tried to calm them. The first year of secondary school at Krems Gymnasium was a disaster. Egon’s father used his social connections as station master in Tulln and had the boy switch to a school in Klosterneuburg. He continued to earn poor grades there. But two teachers recognized his talent.
Egon's elementary school class, 1898-99 school year (© Archiv Leopold Museum, Wien)
Off to Vienna!
The drawing instructor Ludwig Karl Strauch had the reputation of being a strict teacher. With Egon, he always turned a blind eye. Together with Wolfgang Pauker, the religion teacher and an Augustinian canon appreciative of the arts, Strauch coaxed and encouraged the young painter: Be off to Vienna! Apply to the School of Arts and Crafts! So the other plans Egon’s father had had for his son and heir were put aside. Egon was head over heels in love at the time. He worked obsessively on a sketchbook, which he dedicated to Margarete Partonek. But it was a different woman who paved his way to Vienna: his mother. With her help, he managed to pass and graduate despite his disastrous grades.
The best of the best.
It was autumn 1906. His portfolio was completed. The big day had arrived. But then something unexpected happened. The panel of judges at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts turned down Egon’s application. Was it a lack of talent? No, the exact opposite. He was too talented for the school; that was the unanimous verdict. They suggested he apply to the Academy of Fine Arts instead, the dream school for any young painter. Strauch and Pauker used their connections. The sketchbook was convincing. And Egon took the first big hurdle on his way to his eagerly anticipated life as an artist.