A sentiment of languid melancholy permeates many of Schiele's early works, which, with their sombre autumnal shades of colour, often sought to express the deep atmosphere of decadence that Schiele saw at the heart of fin-de-siécle Viennese society. Schiele sought these melancholy colours 'not out of perversity,' he said, 'but because I am conscious of my humanity, because I know there is much misery in our existence and because I find Autumn much more beautiful than every other season... not only as a season but also as a condition of man and things' (E. Schiele quoted by his friend and biographer Arthur Roessler in F. Whitford, Egon Schiele, London, 1981, p. 104).
Executed in 1911, Frau mit erhobenem Bein und lila Strümpfen (Woman with raised leg and purple stockings) is a work in which Schiele expresses these sentiments through the form of an anonymous young girl seemingly lost in dreamy sleep. Exploring to the full the technique of watercolour that he first began to experiment with in 1911, this dramatic picture concentrates on the twin forces of Eros and Thánatos that Schiele, like many of his generation, recognized operated in close conjunction to one another in the faces, forms, figures and lifestyles of the Viennese milieu he was attracted to and depicted in his most famous pictures.
In this work, Schiele seems to have thrown these two elements into stark contrast with one another, emphasizing, on the one hand, the health and vitality of the girl's youthful sexuality and on the other, the contemplative and dreamy pallor of her face. Enclosed in the thick brushstrokes and rich autumnal colours of her clothes, Schiele's model in this work transcends the merely illustrative to become a powerful Expressionistic portrait, emphasizing this powerful and elemental paradox situated at the heart of modern Viennese life.