Oil on canvas
Friedrich Otto Schmidt, Vienna and Budapest (acquired from the artist)
F. Kleinberger & Co., New York
Marlborough Fine Arts, London (acquired in 1959)
Harry Sperling (and sold: Sotheby's & Co., London, May 6, 1959, lot 131)
Mr. William Miller, London
Stephen Hahn Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above in 1973
Hugo Schmidt, painted in 1911, is one of the rare early portraits by Oskar Kokoschka. His Expressionist portraits rank among the finest and most important pieces within his oeuvre. Kokoschka was working alongside Egon Schiele in the early 1910s in Vienna and exhibited with the German Brücke artists at the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin before he settled in Dresden in 1916. The present work depicts Hugo Schmidt (1856-1932), the eldest of the three Schmidt brothers, a lieutenant commander who taught at the Marine-Academy in Fiume from 1894 onwards. After World War I he joined his youngest brother Carl Leo in managing their furniture store Friedrich Otto Schmidt in Vienna and took over the administrative and trading matters.
According to Hans Maria Wingler's Oskar Kokoschka: the Work of the Painter, the present work was originally part of a larger work which included three portraits of the brothers Hugo, Carl Leo and Max Schmidt, painted between 1911 and 1914. The picture, however, remained incomplete after just one sitting. The portraits of Carl Leo (right) and Hugo (left) were painted on the same day whereas the middle portrait of Max Schmidt was executed only three years later. In the mid-1950s the work was fragmented into three individual portraits. The portrait of Carl Leo Schmidt is now housed in the Estorick Collection in London and the painting of Max Schmidt belongs to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid, making the portrait of Hugo Schmidt the only work still in private hands.
Renée Price, Director of the Neue Galerie, New York, commented on the artist's early maturity of style and execution: "Within just a few years, the young artist created a series of portraits that move, shock, repel, or intrigue today just as they did in the years around 1910 when they were made. In each of these paintings the sitter is stripped of social armor, and the soul is bared to the artist's penetrating vision" (Renée Price in Oskar Kokoschka, Early Portraits from Vienna and Berlin, 1909-1914 (exhibition catalogue), Neue Galerie, New York, 2002, p. 6).
Fig 1 Oskar Kokoschka, Portrait of the three Schmidt brothers, 1911-14, oil on canvas
Fig 2 Oskar Kokoschka, Carl Leo Schmidt, 1911, oil on canvas, Estorick Collection, London
Fig 3 Oskar Kokoschka, Max Schmidt, 1914, oil on canvas, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid
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