PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Egon Schiele is often considered the Wunderkind of the early twentieth-century avant-garde for his candid pictorial explorations of the human body. The greater part of his remarkable oeuvre, mostly works on paper, was completed within the span of a decade before he died of the Spanish flu at the age of twenty-eight. As a young art student working in Vienna in the first decade of the 1900s, he became a close acquaintance of Gustav Klimt, the celebrated painter of the Viennese Belle Époque. Klimt instantly recognized the younger artist's exceptional talent as a draughtsman, and supposedly even regarded Schiele's skill as being far superior to his own. According to one account, Schiele had once shown some drawings to Klimt and asked for his criticism, to which Klimt allegedly responded, "But you already know more than I do" (S. Sabarsky, Egon Schiele, 1890-1918, A Centennial Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, 1990, p. 13).
By the time he completed the present work in 1910 Schiele had fully emerged from the influence of Klimt and developed his own aesthetic. His stylistic development over the course of the year was remarkable. Through countless figure studies he refined his line, while employing limpid watercolor washes to enhance and animate his models. Discussing this pivotal early stage of the artist's career, Jane Kallir wrote: "Though the Expressionist breakthrough is heralded in some 1909 drawings, the speed and extremity of Schiele's development in 1910 are such that his work leaves all prior efforts far behind. There is no precedent for the radical, garishly twisted nudes that appear almost at the very start of the year" (J. Kallir, op. cit., p. 391). As in other works of this period, Schiele here used black crayon to produce a dark, striking contour. By applying complementary hues in isolated patches that merge and overlap at the edges, Schiele highlights the critical, focal elements of his nudes, inviting the viewer in. Within the present work, the focus of his attention is on the figure's head, her dreamy face enveloped in brightly colored hair, as well as on the sharply outlined, angular arms that stand in sharp contrast to the soft curves of her body. Schiele’s technical virtuosity, highly original vision and fearless depictions of the naked figure distinguish his nudes as being among his most significant contributions to the development of modern art.
Sitzender Frauenakt mit geneigtem Kopf und erhobenen Armen was formerly in the collection of Serge Sabarsky, the renowned art dealer and leading authority on German and Austrian Expressionist Art. Over the course of some forty years of collecting, Sabarsky amassed one of the most important collections of works by Schiele, as well as by Gustav Klimt, Erich Heckel, Max Beckmann and Otto Dix. Today, key holdings from the Sabarsky collection form the core of the Neue Galerie in New York.
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