The son of a railway inspector, Schiele rejects his bourgeois upbringing and flees in pursuit of artistic fulfilment. When he gains admission to the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, it seems that a glittering career lies ahead of him. But Schiele's talent drives him to portray the moral and physical squalor of the Habsburg capital, and he is rejected by an indignant and hypocritical art world. Forced to endure acute poverty and even imprisonment, Schiele continues to pursue his artistic mission, and in the last months of his life finally finds acclaim with those who had shunned him. In a lavish first novel of rare descriptive power and empathy, fuelled by a blend of research and literary imagination, Crofts succeeds in evoking the man as well as the artist. The result is a masterful, at times heartbreaking portrayal of Austria's most decadent and most misunderstood painter, and of the city which both inspired and destroyed him.