Similar Predicament Of Some German (In The Beginning Of 20th Century) And Some American Kids (In The Beginning Of 21st Century)

A staggering 2.5 million children are now homeless in US. This historical high represents one in every 30 children… An estimated 61,265 family households – were identified as homeless. In these families 120,819 were children under the age of six.
Wikipedia

For 20 years, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has helped states subsidize health coverage for children from low-income families. But on November 30, 2017, American senate approved a massive corporate tax cut projected to cost the government a net $ I trillion over ten years. Senator Orin Hatch addressed the issue on the Senate floor. “The reason CHIP has trouble, – said the Utah Republican, – is because we don’t have money anymore.”
The Editors, “A Gift for the Corporations, Nothing for Children”, “The Christian Century”, Jan. 3, 2018, p.7


Egon Schiele, Boy with Hand to Face, 1910, watercolor on paper

A permanent – “systematic” and systemic hunger and absence of care in the life of this child makes him disoriented and feeling sick. He is kind of frozen between sitting and standing – he doesn’t know whether he is standing or sitting. He doesn’t know anymore what his body is – what it wants and what it needs. The painter uses watercolor in extremely “sketchy” way to emphasize this loosing of body by self-awareness, loosing of any certainty of what “my body” is about – the “my-ness” and “it-ness” of the body is disturbed – almost lost. Schiele paints with crude, as if, chaotic strokes, intentionally, to characterize the boy’s chaotic perception of his being’s disordered existence.

The thick uneven, not “realistic” white line marking the contours of the child’s figure accents the loss of psychological connection with the world. The child is alone and lost in his aloneness. The pantomimic configuration of the child’s posture tells that he is still trying to concentrate on his internal being locked from the surrounding, and can’t feel what is around him and what he is. He is, as if, losing his mind and can lose in any moment his consciousness.

His face is pale and, as if, becoming transparent. His facial features are, as if, in a process of melting, but his hands are big – the left one, with articulate fingers feeling his head and felt by it, marks his feeble attempt to keep his mind from being shattered to pieces. But his right hand is lost – he doesn’t feel it, as if, the child doesn’t know what is it – what to do with it. Schiele paints this hand exactly as the boy feels it – like a piece of wooden stump. The painter visually materializes the perception of his protagonist. We don’t see his feet on the ground, and that reinforces our impression that he may fall in any moment.

The incredible sensitivity of the painter’s talent makes him capable to feel the psychological state of his model, while his ability to depict it with minimal expressive tools which he transformed into plenitude, makes us once again to bow in front of Schiele’s artistic greatness.


Egon Schiele, “Two Guttersnipes”, 1910, watercolor on paper

Probably, not so many Americans even know today this word – guttersnipe (meaning a dirty clothed street urchin but also can mean something metaphorical like “dumpster bird” (the one looking for food amidst garbage) – the word with an archaic air of rotting. But it looks like the time comes for us to re-remember this and many other words about which we thought that they became outdated forever – austerity eats mass prosperity, like decision- and money-makers’ jaws – conditions for human life.

The boy on the left is so tired and depressed – more, astounded, that he cannot even look around – at the world. He looks, as if, right in front of himself, but in reality he is not looking at all. The world is not noticing him, and he is not interested anymore – where he is. From being “on the streets” the whole day he got an artificially sunburned face, and from him being outdoors the whole night – his hands have also become red, with swollen skin.

The boy to the right is so exhausted that his face is absolutely bloodless. And he is permanently hyper from hunger – look at his artificially “enlarged” eyes. He is trying to care about his younger friend. His right arm is on the shoulder of his companion in gutter-sniffing – he himself needs the support of this nearby shoulder, and at the same time, his arm’s as if generous gesture is friend-protecting – look at his preventively challenging gaze at the passing adults! And how big his right hand (habitually searching for remnants of food) is, how by grabbing his friend’s shoulder it, as if saves them both from aloneness. His gaze at people is already not begging, it’s silently accusing.

Today, in a new century we have to prepare ourselves for seeing more and more kids like this, not from Germany in the beginning of the 20th century, like in the painting of Egon Schiele, but those born in US of the 21th. But how can adults today effectively help, when they’re themselves exhausted by heavy-handed national austerity policy, which neocon decision-makers have been scrupulously planning and implementing today methodically and consistently?

Schiele’s greatness is not only courage to be occupied not with embellishing everyday life entertaining art and staying with reality, but in challenging himself with, as if, modest expressive means (which he knows how to apply to achieve refined artistic results). People breathe with the same naturalness as Egon Schiele draws and paints – so “instinctively”, as though art like breath – were also a gift from creation.