Throughout his artistic career, Schiele was fascinated by the subject of children who for him represented the beginning of life, vitality, and, figuratively, fresh creativity. The theme of the mother and child is a thread running throughout his work, yet Schiele's feelings towards sexuality, procreation and motherhood were always bound up with their opposite poles of death and decay, as for example in his 1910 Dead Mother painting where the mother is shown having to die in order to give birth.
From 1910 onwards, Schiele had often used street children as models. Sometimes he would draw them nude, in a variety of sexually charged poses, trying to get to the bottom of human nature by exploring their awakening sexuality. In 1912, when living and working in provincial Neulengbach, he was, unfairly it seems, accused of abducting and sexually abusing a minor and imprisoned waiting trial for 24 days before being charged with allowing children access to the 'immoral' drawings in his studio.
In contrast to these earlier and more provocative drawings of adolescents, Sitzendes Kind is a more straight-forward account of a middle-class or well-to-do toddler. The artist, who had already displayed his precocious gift for drawing as a schoolboy, here only needs a few strokes to sensitively capture the complete contour and psychology of a child of about two, tightly clinging on to its bib and immersed in its own world. Compared with his edgy, angular, and more expressive, line of 1910 and 1911, here Schiele adopts a softer, more rounded, economic and realistic line with which to define his subject.
Possibly in reaction to the 'Neulengbach affair' but also thanks to greater stability in his own life, Schiele painted the children of his bourgeois environment from 1912 onwards, focusing on his relatives' children, or working on commissions to record his patron's offspring. The child depicted in this work appears in two further drawings of 1916 (Kallir, D. 1819 and D. 1820). A later inscription on the verso of this drawing suggests that the child was a member of the household of Schiele's parents-in-law, the Harms family.