PROPERTY FROM THE CHRISTIAN M. NEBEHAY COLLECTION
Charcoal with white gouache; black crayon (on the reverse)
Trude Witzler, Vienna (daughter of Eduard Kosmack)
Christian M. Nebehay, Vienna (acquired from the above in the late 1950s or early 1960s)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Darmstadt, Mathildenhöhe, Internationale der Zeichnung, 1967, no. 23
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Gustav Klimt - Egon Schiele, 1968, no. 155
London, Fischer Fine Art, Egon Schiele: Oils, Watercolors, Drawings and Graphic Work, 1972, no. 12
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Egon Schiele, 1975, no. 99
Paris von Gütersloh, Egon Schiele: Versuch einer Vorrede, Vienna, 1911, illustrated
Bildende Künstler, 1911, p. 111
Rudolf Leopold, Egon Schiele: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Salzburg, 1972, illustrated p. 130
Alessandra Comini, Egon Schiele's Portraits, Berkeley, 1974, illustrated pl. 64
Erwin Mitsch, Egon Schiele, 1890-1918, Salzburg, 1988, fig. 24, illustrated p. 72
Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele, The Complete Works, New York, 1998, no. 633 (recto), illustrated p. 420; no. 603 (verso), illustrated p. 416
This striking portrait is one of five depictions Schiele completed of the Viennese publisher Eduard Kosmack (see fig. 1; Kallir nos. 633-637). The drawing under discussion is the most closely related to the oil portrait that was the culmination of this series (see fig. 2; Kallir no. P. 165). Eduard Kosmack was the publisher of two important journals, Der Architect and Das Interiori, the latter of which would publish an image of Schiele's Sonnenblumen in 1911. He had been introduced to Schiele by the artist's important patron Arthur Roessler and was known throughout the arts community as a notable hypnotist. It is this psychic energy and power that Schiele sets out to capture in his portrait studies of this intensely serious and influential man.
The Kosmack portraits are among Schiele's best known series, and two of these works are in the collections of the Neue Galerie, New York (Kallir no. 634, see fig. 3) and the Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna (Kallir no. 637). Alessandra Comini devoted a lengthy essay to Schiele's compelling portraits of Kosmack, noting the commonalities between the present work and Edvard Munch's haunting composition, Puberty: "The sketch closest to the final oil, Study for the Portrait of Edouard Kosmack, Frontal with Clasped Hands, provides a less overt but equally effective intensification of the sitter's forceful gaze by means of a rhythmically repeated symmetry that affects all paired parts of the body -- knees, hands, elbows, shoulders, ears -- in a regular, mesmeric progression to the luminous eyes. A photograph of Kosmack confirms the wire physique, but tells nothing of the radiance or compelling quality of the eyes. Should Schiele's arresting depiction be considered solely in the light of an Expressionist adaptation of the watching heads of consciousness in Jugendstil art and architecture, or as a continuation of the staring Medusa faces popularized by Franz Stuck and Khnopff? Even the affinity with Munch's Puberty ends here, for the gaze of Munch's young girl is fixed on her thoughts, whereas Kosmack's stare is one of determined will power directed outward and aimed at the beholder. There is a more personal explanation. Kosmack was an enthusiastic and successful amateur hypnotist. It was this prepossessing faculty, a power capable of transforming its frail owner into an image of authority with access to the mind's innermost secrets, that Schiele wished to incarnate and project against a void of subsconsciousness. Both sitter and subject matter therefore were eminently suited to Expressionist interpretation" (Comini, op. cit., p. 77)
When Schiele completed this work in 1910, he was essentially dependant upon his friends and his few patrons to promulgate his reputation as an artist. In order to win their good graces, he often made sure to over-accentuate powerful aspects of their personalities. Flattering or not, these portraits attracted the attention of Schiele's audience, and he quickly gained the patronage of some of the most important members of avant-garde society. It is worth noting that Schiele was still an adolescent when he completed these pictures in 1910. Having little experience with women at this point in his life, he was more comfortable working with male sitters and was more readily able to capture salient details of character. As Jane Kallir explains, "Schiele indentified more readily with male than female subjects, just as men dominated among his friends and patrons in 1910, because the male personality was more readily comprehensible to him. If he infused his more formal portraits with his own identity, he found that in drawings of his friends he could explore themes similar to those mooted in his self-portraits. In this regard, the supple body movements and attenuated gestures of his Neukunstgruppe comrade Osen, sometime painter and professional mime, were a particular inspiration. It has even be hypothesized that the mime's propensity for eloquent gesticulation had a formative influence on Schiele's expressive vocabulary." (Kallir, p. 86-87).
The first owner of record of this work was Trude Witzler (died 1980), who was the daughter of Eduard Kosmack (Vienna 1880 - Munich 1947). The picture later entered the collection of Christian M. Nebehay in the 1950s. His father, Gustav Nebehay, was Kosmack's employer between 1920 and 1928. Christian M. Nebehay referred to Kosmack as a "fatherly friend." It is not specified why Schiele spelled Kosmack's name without the 'c' when he titled this picture, but Jane Kallir tells us that Schiele was known to spell the name variably in other references to his sitter.
Fig. 1, Eduard Kosmack, photograph courtesy Vienna Museum
Fig. 2, Egon Schiele, Bildnis Eduard Kosmack, 1910, oil on canvas, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna
Fig. 3, Egon Schiele, Bildnis Eduard Kosmack, 1910, charcoal with white heightening, The Neue Galerie, New York
Fig. 4, Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894-95, oil on canvas, The National Gallery, Oslo
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