Lot 6
  • 6

Albin Egger-Lienz

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Albin Egger-Lienz
  • Der Sämann (the sower)
  • signed A. EGGER-LIENZ lower left
  • tempera (casein) on canvas
  • 240 by 170cm., 94½ by 67in.


Moderne Kunsthandlung Brakl & Thannhauser, Munich (by 1921)
Purchased from the above by the grandfather of the present owners on 19 May 1921


Wilfried Kirschl, Albin Egger-Lienz: Das Gesamtwerk, Vienna & Munich, 1996, vol. II, p. 540, no. M322, catalogued & illustrated, vol. I, pp. 198–202, the triptych discussed


The following condition report has been written by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 & 14 Mason's Yard, London SW1Y 6BU: Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and is securely attached to its original keyed wooden stretcher. This is providing an even and stable support. Paint surface The canvas has the artist's original unvarnished appearance. There are several small white flecks of what appear to be household paint in the upper right quadrant of the composition close to the upper turnover edge. There is a feint craquelure pattern visible in the upper left corner of the composition. This appears stable and is not particularly visually distracting. There are several marks and abrasions to the paint surface, most notably within the earth red pigments in the foreground. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows several retouchings including an area in the lower left quadrant of the composition close to the left hand framing edge, a smaller retouching close to the right hand framing edge and to the right of the basket and some minor retouching covering a line of abrasion to the right of the figure's right foot. Summary The painting therefore appears to be in good condition and would benefit from the inpainting of surface marks and abrasions.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The figure in Albin Egger Lienz's The Sower was conceived for his monumental triptych, Erde (The Earth) (Kirschl, M319). Starting work in 1912, Egger first completed the two side panels (the sower on the left and the reaper on the right) in oil, but rejected these and painted two new versions in milk-based casein tempera, each measuring 232 by 173cm. The square central panel, also in tempera and measuring 232 by 232cm, depicted a mountain meadow in the Ötztal valley. The triptych was shown publicly eight times, between 1912 and 1915. None of the original panels of the triptych survives, although in 1913 a tempera réplique of the sower (Kirschl, M321) measuring 230 by 171cm, was purchased by the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, where it remains today. Known only from archival photographs until its recent rediscovery, the present work, which Kirschl dates to before 1914, is a further version of the composition, showing the artist's ongoing interest in the subject.  

The Earth was painted at the height of Egger-Lienz's career, shortly after Der Totentanz von Anno Neun (1908; Vienna, Österreichische Galerie, Belvedere), and Haspinger Anno Neun (1908-09; Lienz, Museum Schloss Bruck). While the latter works were overtly polemical, inspired by the Tyrolean freedom battles of 1809 against the French troops of Napoleon, here the sower is depicted as the salt of the earth in times of peace, his stolid and unquestioning expression evoking those of the sower in Jean-François Millet's eponymous painting. The Sower epitomises Egger's pared-down, monumental style, setting it apart from his earlier Realist style, influenced by his teacher Franz Defregger at the Munich Academy.  

Throughout his oeuvre, Egger-Lienz was focused on the everyday agrarian life of his homeland, progressively abstracting his formal language into monumental expressiveness. Like his other Tyrolean peasant subjects after 1909, the sower is an introspective figure, absorbed in his task of working the land. By focusing on the figure, presented as a clearly outlined form, and setting it against a simplified alpine backdrop, Egger-Lienz heightens the isolation, but also the heroism and monumentality of the figure. The earthly, reddish skin tones of the sower and reaper in The Earth were executed in a colour Egger had first used in the Sower and Devil in 1908. Describing the importance of the choice of palette, Egger-Lienz commented: 'The prominent brownish tint of the body, face and the hands is a carefully deliberated necessity for my style. The warm, rusty red glow of my new compositions complements my style colouristically. It gives it gravity, ceremony, ruggedness.' (quoted in Kirschl, vol. I, p. 136).