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Egon Schiele (Tulln 1890 - Wien 1918)

Reclining nude, masturbating

1914
Pencil on paper
30.5 x 48.3 cm



Egon Schiele’s pencil drawing of a masturbating woman is one of the most uncompromising examples of his insistent exploration of human, notably female, sexuality, which led to the artist being discredited as a pornographer and incurred the ire of bourgeois society and its systems of justice. However, the model’s anonymity reflects that Schiele was not intent on voyeuristic titillation. Within the oval face, with no eyes, two eyebrows are rendered as if with a compass and extend to suggest the nose. Below there is still the resplendently sensual mouth with full lips, yet by omitting the eyes the figure loses all individuality. It is not possible for the viewer to gain eye contact, or fixate lasciviously on the figure as an object of lust.
This unsigned and undated work can be classified around the year 1914, in terms of both style and content. At that time the subject of masturbation recurred frequently in Schiele’s graphic work, as did the geometric, simplified linking of eyebrows and nose, recalling Cubist stylistic devices. Furthermore, the curving-dynamic line is typical of this period, its rapid, almost gestural strokes aiming not so much at precise and detailed realism but at spontaneously capturing elemental vitality.

Edwin Lachnit
(translated from the German by Rebecca Law)


Provenance: Sam Francis, Santa Monica. - Galerie St. Etienne, New York. - Private collection.

Literature: J. Kallir, Egon Schiele, The Complete Works, Expanded Edition, New York, 1998, p. 673, cat. rais. no. 1579b.

Pinacotheque de Paris, Au Temps du Klimt. La Secession a Vienne., 12. 2. 2015 - 21. 6. 2015, Paris. - Egon Schiele, 22.02. - 18.06.2017, Albertina Museum, Wien