Lea Bondi Jaray, London (sold: Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart, 26th & 27th November 1957, lot 943)
Kiswitt Collection (purchased at the above sale)
Private Collection, USA
Acquired from the above from the present owner in 2015
Sitzende, Rückenakt can be tentatively dated to the beginning of 1911; the bold tones of black, white and orange and the white gouache marking the outlines of the body are characteristic of Schiele’s work in 1910 and the first months of 1911. During this period, as throughout his short career, both his painting and drawing was characterised by a hugely inventive approach to composition and technique.
In Sitzende, Rückenakt Schiele depicts his model seated with her back to both artist and viewer. She is seen slightly from above – an approach that Schiele pioneered, often working from atop a ladder to achieve an unexpected and unconventional viewpoint. As Jane Kallir notes, these compositional innovations were matched in his handling of the medium: ‘Equally unorthodox is Schiele’s continued reliance on white gouache, which a purist […] would have banished from his palette […] since about mid-1910 the artist has been in the habit of using white gouache to outline his figures. This “body halo” naturally intensifies the psychological impact of the subject, and, when used on the brownish Packpapier favoured by Schiele in 1910, it has the effect of augmenting the contrast between figure and ground’ (J. Kallir, op. cit., p. 433).
There is evidence in Sitzende, Rückenakt of what Kallir notes as the growing influence of Schiele’s work with watercolour; there is a deft fluidity in his handling of the paint where he uses the natural flow of the medium to dictate texture and add weight to form. This in turn intensifies the expressive physiognomy of his subject. Kallir suggests that emotional force of these works is inextricably linked to Schiele’s own psychology and sense of identity: ‘In a sense, Schiele himself is the true subject of all his 1911 nudes, of both genders. Unmediated by any mollifying aesthetic conventions, these drawings record his immediate responses almost seismographically. […] He feared not only succumbing to his own powerful impulses, but confrontation with an unfathomable female “other”. Loss of control, loss of autonomy, and loss of identity all threatened to engulf him. At a time when the boundary between civilisation and chaos was held to lie in sexual restraint, Schiele wilfully stepped over the edge by acknowledging his own arousal and complicity with his female models’ (J. Kallir, Egon Schiele. Drawings and Watercolours, London, 2006, p. 141).
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