Edith Harms was three years older than Egon Schiele and lived across the street from the artist's studio in Vienna with her sister Adéle and her middle-class protestant parents. Schiele was exactly the sort of neighbor middle-class protestant parents hate—he'd been to jail for creating pornographic art, was known to have seduced a minor, and was shacked up his muse and model Wally Neuzil who was a suspected prostitute. And yet, determined to "marry advantageously" as he wrote to a friend, Schiele ingratiated himself with Edith and her sister, eventually marrying Edith on June 17th, 1915.
Schiele made two portraits of Edith in striped dresses, and they stand in high contrast to pretty much every other portrait in his short but prolific career. When painting himself, Egon's figure is contorted and angular, his distorted bones straining against skin. His paintings of women, even of Edith's sister Adéle, are often shockingly overt in their sexuality. But Schiele's portraits of Edith are chaste. Her expression ranges from demure to preoccupied to oddly vacant. It's hard not to feel sad looking at her.
Edith and Schiele were only married for 3 years before the Spanish flu ripped through Vienna and caught them both. Six months pregnant at the time, Edith died on October 28, 1918—and Schiele three days later.