signed Schiele and dated 10. (lower left)
watercolour, pencil and charcoal on paper
Executed in 1910.
Lillian Langseth-Christensen, Vienna & New York (probably acquired in the 1920s)
Galerie St. Etienne, New York
Paul & Rita Reif, New York
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York
Private East Coast Educational Institution (sold: Christie's, New York, November 14, 1984, lot 226)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Egon Schiele, The Graphic Work, 1970
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art, Egon Schiele, 1979, no. 12
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Egon Schiele: An Exhibition of Watercolours and Drawings, 1979, no. 15
Munich, Galerie Schweinsteiger, circa 1980, no. 95
Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1998, no. 676, illustrated p. 424
In 1910, Schiele executed a number of drawings and watercolours of the male body, which epitomise his highly individual, newly developed Expressionist style. As an adolescent with characteristically narcissistic preoccupations, he created studies of male torsos, arms and legs that often resemble his own body and were, in fact, usually self-portraits. In the present work, the figure stands with his back towards us, providing us with a view of the long and lean torso. Schiele pays particular attention here to the curve of the spine and the sharp points of the shoulder blades protruding through the taut skin. The outline of the body is roughly sketched in charcoal, revealing the strong skeletal structure, while the flesh is highlighted with soft washes of colour. The most curious element here is the rumpled shirt sleeve which hangs from the figure's arm and almost appears to be an extension of that limb. The other arm is not shown at all, and we are left to imagine that it is tucked against the chest or might be touching his face. Regardless of the intent of the act, we know that this is a pose which the figure cannot hold for very long and it is our anticipation of this movement that adds a sense of the dynamism to the scene.
Writing about Schiele's depictions of the male nude, Simon Wilson has observed: 'Schiele's mature art presents us with an image of man, free-floating, seen from strange and unusual angles and in strange and unusual postures, that is quite new in the long history of the human image in Western art. He developed in other works a completely fresh view of man in art - an extraordinary achievement. But that is not all: Schiele's image of man is of an unprecedented and remarkable completeness. He depicts [men] as the sexual being [they] are in a way no other great artist had ever done before, and at the same time gives full and equal value to the metaphysical and the psychological' (Simon Wilson, Egon Schiele, Ithaca, 1980, p. 18).
The first known owner of this work was the writer Lillian Langseth-Christensen, who emigrated to the United States from Austria in the 1920s. Her family was acquainted with many Viennese artists, including Klimt, and it is most likely that she acquired this work in Vienna before she came to New York.
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