Fascinated by his own image, Schiele drew his face and body almost obsessively in a series of self-portrait. Schiele’s distorted, ugly and sometimes morbid self-portrayal is highly personalized and inward-looking. However, they are also reflective of the condition of the city. He wrote in his diary, “Vienna is full of shadow, the city is black. I want to be alone in the Bohemian Woods, that I need not hear anything about myself.” We are drawn into his internal world and all the conflicting psychological struggles of Schiele and the Viennese modern man.
Like his fellow Austrian painter Kokoshka, the hands in Schiele’s self-portraits attracted much attention. They appear monstrous and outsized on the emaciated, skeletal body. Schiele’s human hands are somehow detached from the body. Midway between attraction and repulsion, the hand in Schiele’s work becomes a formidable index of sexual hypocrisy in Vienna. Seeking to expose the truth in defiance of society, the masturbating hand, always hidden and shameful, inseparable from guilt, is accentuated in these self-portraits. The hand is also the hand of the artist, an idea that has intrigued artists since Durer’s iconic self-portrait in 1500. Schiele problematizes the relationship between art and repression, and the scopic drive and sexual drive, issues of concern in contemporary Vienna.
 Itzhak Goldberg, “Talking Hands,” Vienna 1900: Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka, (Paris: Editions de la Reunion des Musees nationaux, 2005), 75-84.