Lot 50
  • 50

Egon Schiele

Estimate
1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
Sold
3,015,000 USD
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Description

  • Egon Schiele
  • Kniende Frau
  • Signed EGON SCHIELE and dated 1912 (lower left)
  • Gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper

Provenance

Kunsthandlung Max Hevesi, Vienna (acquired between 1920 and 1938 bears Gallery Stamp on verso)

C & J Goodfreund Drawings and Prints, New York (acquired after 1968)

Atsuko Shilowitz Murayama & Carol M Penn

Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York

Dr. Anton C.R. Dreesmannm, The Netherlands (acquired from the above and sold: Christie's, London, April 9, 2002, lot 152)

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

New York, Lafayette Parke Gallery, The Expressionist Figure, 1986, no. 52

Literature

Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, London, 1990, no. 1130, illustrated p. 478

Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1998, no. 1130, illustrated p. 478

Catalogue Note

Kniende Frau, like the vast majority of drawings Schiele created in 1912, depicts his model, muse and companion Walburga ‘Wally’ Neuzil. She was thought to have previously modeled for Schiele’s mentor and champion Gustav Klimt but was already working with the younger artist in 1911 and by 1912 had formed a lasting and meaningful relationship with him which went beyond that of artist and model. Schiele was just twenty-two when he executed this work and Wally was eighteen. She is instantly recognizable by her auburn hair and pale eyes looking just beyond the viewer’s gaze, never quite meeting it but seemingly aware of it being observed. The dynamic between the artist and his subject is extremely charged; Wally’s body is purposefully and provocatively tilted at an angle which allows her to look sideways, seemingly passive yet with enormous magnetism and self-possession.  

Throughout their four years together, Wally not only modeled for Schiele tirelessly but also managed the artist’s financial affairs, worked with collectors and gallerists, paid rent and delivered paintings and papers. She accompanied the artist on his outings into the countryside and was with him during his stay in Neulengbach in 1912 when he was briefly imprisoned. Schiele and Wally’s very presence in the small country town scandalized his conservative neighbors, but his Bohemian lifestyle and his use of local children as models drew specific criticism. When a retired naval officer’s daughter asked Schiele and Wally to help her run away, the couple found themselves in a precarious position. Although they returned the girl to her parents, the father had already pressed charges against Schiele and the artist spent twenty-four days in a prison cell. This experience—and particularly the loss of freedom and selfhood it entailed—had a marked effect on Schiele’s work. Peter Vergo observes of the period after his release in 1912 that “his manner of depicting erotic nudes now seems subtly different, closer to the contrived poses that characterized the nude photographs then widely (albeit surreptitiously) available” (P. Vergo in The Radical Nude (exhibition catalogue), The Courtauld Gallery, London, 2014, p. 24).

While Schiele’s nudes following this experience were still erotically charged, as is evident by the purposefully suggestive pose of the present composition, a layer of modulation began to appear in 1912. Here Wally’s relatively brazen pose coupled with a bare navel and legs are balanced by white drapery which covers her lower half and a brilliant green blouse that draws the eye upwards.

Schiele’s line is unwavering in its careful progress toward the creation of form, yet the thin, sometimes faint outlines of musculature remain remarkably ethereal. As Vergo writes: “The propensity to deposit a narrow band of color along principal edges of a form, observed already in 1911, became more pronounced: color washes glide across the central surface and then accumulate in the darker gullies along the periphery... The rounded outlines of his nudes are so soft they appear almost to be melting. His colors, often diluted with white, are equally delicate” (ibid., pp. 191-92). Schiele’s immense skill as a colorist is evident in the subtle range of blue, whites, greens and orange washes that he uses to conjure volume and depth in the present work. These are contrasted with the orange-red highlights applied to her features, deliberately drawing attention to her face, her hands and her feet. The use of raw-red to draw attention to Wally’s pale skin is a technique he often used to tease out a sense of inner emotion and turmoil, a reference to the latent sexual energy in most of his figures.

Wally’s central role in Schiele’s life and art is clear from the pair of matching portraits he painted in 1912, both in the collection of the Leopold Museum, Vienna. Their relationship ended abruptly in 1915 when Schiele decided to marry Edith Harms, the daughter of the local locksmith, a match deemed far more respectable than that between an avant-garde young artist and his model.

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