Executed circa 1880-85, the present work portrays a young woman, likely to be a prostitute, lying semi-naked on a divan. Self-confident in her nakedness, she stares at the viewer daring him to stare back, exposing the most intimate part of her body. Klinger’s interest in social issues of debauchery that characterized modern life had translated into A Life, a collection of fifteen etchings about a young woman forced into prostitution and refused by society, published in 1884. Young Woman on a Divan might indeed have originated from this body of work.
Whilst Klinger did not dislike the use of oil paint, he strongly believed painting could have no other purpose except the representation of nature. On the other hand, he thought drawing allowed the artist more freedom and more precision. It was drawing, therefore, that he chose as the most appropriate medium to represent the world of symbols, the realm of imagination.
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