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Egon Schiele (Tulln 1890 - Wien 1918)


Black crayon on paper
29.5 x 45.5 cm

The drawings Schiele produced in 1918 were, like those of the previous year, predominantly of the nude and semi-nude female studio model. He continued to make regular use of charcoal and, above all (as in the present sheet) of black crayon; but he now only rarely resorted to gouache or watercolour. The works on paper of what were to be the last ten months of his career are, at their best, a testament to his mastery of the continuous, form-sculpting line.
Schiele’s work from the model during 1918 is also notable for the far greater proportion of the resulting drawings – well over 75 per cent – in which the figure is entirely naked.1 (This may well reflect a continuing preoccupation with his series of allegorical paintings, in which none of the figures is clothed.) But the remainder are, in turn, themselves remarkable for examples from two extremes. In some, including the present sheet, the garments are so rendered as to become effectively “invisible”. In others, the clothing is so obtrusive as to heighten our surprise at what is nonetheless revealed: this is the function of the overcoat and voluminous skirt worn by the squatting model in one of the most striking images of this period (see fig. Kallir, cat. rais. no. D 2418).
Much was sacrificed at this time to the imperatives and exigencies of continuous production to satisfy the demand arising in response to Schiele’s now established reputation as a master of the erotic / pornographic.2 But, even in such circumstances, Schiele’s enduring capacity for looking afresh at the female (semi-)nude ensured that examples such as our reclining figure do possess, alongside their slick efficacy, elements and aspects that may so startle or provoke (here, the disconcerting scale of the foregrounded and foreshortened thighs, or the implied simultaneous “presence” and “absence” of the subject herself) as to lift them well beyond erotic / pornographic “routine”.

1 The proportion for 1917 would be just under 50 per cent.
2 For a sobering assessment of Schiele’s drawings of this period as, on the whole, no more than “conventionally erotic”, see Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: Drawings and Watercolours, London 2003, pp. 388-90.

Elizabeth Clegg

Provenance: Lempertz, 24 November 1972, Sale 528, lot 766. - Private collection, Austria.

Literature: Jane Kallir: Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, Expanded Edition 1998, p. 612, cat. rais. no. 2252. – Exhibition catalogue Österreichische Galerie Belvedere at Musée d’Ixelles and at Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt: Österreichischer Expressionismus – Malerei und Graphik 1905–1925, Blondé Artprinting Int. 1998, p. 41, no. 1

Österreichischer Expressionismus – Malerei und Graphik 1905–1925, Musée d’Ixelles 18.06.1998 – 13.09.1998 und Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt 16.10.1998 – 10.1.1999.