PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
Signed and dated Egon Schiele 1913. (lower right)
Gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper
Executed in 1913.
Dr. Hans Fetscherin, Salzburg and Munich (by 1968)
Sale: Kornfeld, Bern, June 22, 1983, lot 827
Acquired from the above
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Gustav Klimt - Egon Schiele: zum Gedächtnis ihres Todes vor 50 Jahren, 1968, no. 221 (titled Kniende nach links)
Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1998, no. 1281, illustrated p. 497
The present drawing is one from a group of compositions of a kneeling figure that Schiele completed between 1913 and 1914. Several of his drawings from these years are believed to be studies for larger works in oil, and, although it is a complete composition on its own, the linear precision of the present work provides an indication that Schiele had an even grander work in mind when he executed this picture. Given the similarities between the pose and the angular body contours of this figure and the female figure in the Neue Galerie’s Mann und Frau (Liebespaar I) from 1914 (see fig. 1), it is possible that the present work is one of the first meditations for that important oil.
This image of a young woman on her knees must have been intensely appealing to Schiele for several reasons, in addition to its sexual connotations. The pose presented him with an unusual angle at which to render the human form and experiment with spatial perspective. As was the case with the portrait of his friend Erich Lederer (see fig. 2), completed the year before the present work, Schiele was faced with the challenge in this picture of foreshortening the limbs of the model without losing the overall continuity of the body. He has clearly devoted a great amount of care to developing the lower half of the figure’s torso and limbs. He renders the folds in the soles of her feet with remarkable precision and emphasizes the smooth musculature of her thighs by boldly outlining them in black. The figure’s upper-half, however, is more a geometric design than a realistic portrayal of a body, and shows how the artist can merge two stylistic approaches within one continuous form.
In many of his drawings from 1913-14, Schiele used a minimal amount of color in the execution of his figures (see fig. 3). He often applied small, dense color patches in isolated areas to enhance the dimensionality of the composition and the volume of the form, but rarely did he rely on his palette as the sole expressive mechanism. In the present work, he calls attention to the figure’s blue shirt and the darkly colored base of her skull. This addition of color to the upper-left corner of the sheet aids in guiding the viewer’s focus from the legs and lower torso to the head and chest. In this drawing and in another related work from the same time (see fig. 4), Schiele devotes himself primarily to the modeling of the human form through his draftsmanship. These compositions are highly linear and emphasize the structure of the body over the tonality of the flesh, which, in this picture, he leaves entirely colorless.
Jane Kallir has written about Schiele’s drawings in 1913, noting how the artist was picking up on aesthetic trends, such as Cubism, and incorporating them into his own aesthetic: “In some drawings from 1913, bizarrely foreshortened figures seem to hurl through space or walk with stiff, uneasy steps on wedge-like, triangulated feet. Interior forms are subdivided into harsh, angular subsections, sometimes heightened by similarly modulated blocks of color. This increased geometricity – which appears concurrently in the artist’s paintings – has been attributed to the influence of Cubism. Schiele had become aware of the French style indirectly, through its impact on his German colleagues and through magazine reproductions. His idiosyncratic assimilation of Cubist geometry had a paradoxical effect, bringing with it not only a greater degree of abstraction, but also a greater awareness of volume. The artist’s 1913 nudes begin a subliminal return to three-dimensional verisimilitude” (Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele, Drawings and Watercolors, New York, 2003, p. 223).
Fig. 1, Egon Schiele, Mann und Frau (Liebespaar I), 1914, oil on canvas, Neue Galerie, New York
Fig. 2, Egon Schiele, Erich Lederer am Boden zeichnend, 1912, watercolor, gouache and pencil, Private Collection
Fig. 3, Egon Schiele, Kniender weiblicher Akt, 1914, gouache, watercolor and black crayon on paper, Private Collection (sold: Sotheby’s London, June 21, 2004)
Fig. 4, Egon Schiele, Akt, 1913, watercolor and black crayon, 1913, Private Collection
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