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    Sale 7702

    Impressionist/Modern, Day Sale

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 414

    Christian Schad (1894-1982)

    Nikolaus (Portrait of Nikolaus Schad as a Child)

    Price Realised  


    Christian Schad (1894-1982)
    Nikolaus (Portrait of Nikolaus Schad as a Child)
    signed and dated 'SCHAD 25' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'Schad CHR. SCHAD "NIKOLAUS" 1925 ROM' (on the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    19¾ x 16 7/8 in. (50 x 43 cm.)
    Painted in 1925

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    One of the first of Schad's paintings to be executed in the smooth clear 'Magic Realist' style for which he is best known, this picture was painted while Schad was in Rome to paint the portrait of Pope Pius XI - a work which brought the artist great renown. Like the papal portrait, this picture of his infant son Nikolaus (born in the summer of 1924) was completed in Rome shortly before Schad moved with his family to Vienna in the summer of 1925.

    Schad loved painting children on account of their 'completely open eyes'. The eyes were, for Schad, windows on the soul of his sitters and the most important single element in any portrait. In his opinion the mysterious essence of the human being was, in the child, not yet so buried by the 'entanglement in externals' as in the case of adults (Schad, cited in Christian Schad Retrospective, Life and Work in Context, exh. cat., Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2008, p. 13). In this work, Schad pays particular attention to the eyes contrasting the frank and open gaze of his young son with that of the look in the eyes of two of his toys - a teddy bear and a hand-puppet.

    Seated in front of a window looking out onto a landscape in the neo-classical manner reminiscent of the Neue Sachlichkeit naturalism of an artist like Georg Schrimpf, Schad has endowed this portrait of Nikolaus with a similar mysterious clarity. The calm, peaceful and empty landscape a symbol of a life just beginning.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    The artist until circa 1940-1950, and thence by descent to the present owners.

    Pre-Lot Text


    Three works from the Estate of Nikolaus Schad

    Christian Schad is best known for the great series of portraits he made in Vienna and Berlin in the late 1920s. The sharp clarity of Schad's unique and mysterious brand of realism, his piercing observation and almost uncanny pictorial ability to lift the veil on the decadent and decaying society in which he lived, established him as the quintessential exponent of the then prevailing tendency in modern German art known as Die Neue Sachlichkeit. But although Schad's strange 'Magic Realism' with its often veiled erotic undertones will forever be associated with the unique and doomed culture of the Weimar Republic, the roots of this art lay elsewhere.

    It was in Italy, Schad once remarked, that 'I found my way' and it was essentially a combination of the modernist neoclassicism of the Novecento italiano group of painters and an intensely personal encounter with Raphael's legendary painting 'la Fornarina' that sparked the beginnings of Schad's unique and fastidious style of painting.

    Born into a well-to-do Bavarian family, Schad had begun his career as a painter at the Munich Academy before the interruption of the First World War led to a move to Switzerland. It was his opinion, Schad boldly told his parents, that if Kaiser Willhelm II and a President Poincaré wished to go to war, they should settle their differences in a duel and leave the rest of the world in peace. In Switzerland, finding himself among numerous other German intellectual émigrés Schad became affiliated to the Zurich Dada group where he began a close and important friendship with the writer Walter Serner. Serner's radicalizing influence prompted in Schad a wider interest in all aspects of life, one that came to include psychology and photography. After moving to Geneva with Serner in 1916, Schad began to paint in an Expressionist style, making a series of interesting portraits in a Geneva insane asylum. His Max Oppenheimer-inspired portrait of his then girlfriend Suzy dates also from this period, while his pioneering experiments with photography led to his most important contribution to Zurich Dada, the creation of the Schadograph - an abstract photogram made without the use of a camera by the shadows of found objects on photographic paper.

    In the aftermath of the war and growing tired of the child-like nonsense of Dada, Schad traveled with Serner to Italy where he sought a purer form of art. Naples proved a revelation to him, its 'volcanic soil' causing him to think 'of the here-and-now instead of the hereafter, bestowing sharper outlines on every-day life in all its various manifestations'. It was these 'sharp outlines' of reality that Schad embraced, swiftly developing his smooth realist style of painting that to some extent echoed the sober clarity and neo-classicism of the Italian Novecento. Seeing psychology as a 'handicap' to this kind of painting, and as a 'relic of Expressionism', Schad now abandoned all artificial emphasis on the projected inner life of a sitter in favour of a slick smooth realism that lay bare the naked truths and glorious lies of surface appearance in all its rich and fascinating detail.

    Marcella of 1923 is perhaps the very first of Schad's works to mark this change in direction in Schad's art. A portrait of the young Roman girl Marcella Arcangeli whom he had just married, it is a deceptively simple work dominated, like so many of Schad's subsequent portraits, by the large eyes and intense and revealing stare of its subject. For Schad, it was the eyes of a person that proved the key to a successful portrait. 'It is the eyes that come alive in a portrait while everything else still remains unformed', he said. 'I have noticed that there are different types of eyes: the ones with which you always remain on the surface - that do not let anything pass - then there are the ones which make you think that you can penetrate all the way to the bottom but which eventually make you hit an invisible wall somewhere in the background. The most beautiful eyes - not in the sense of their external beauty or colour or form of the eye - are the fully open eyes. But you do not come across them very often.' (Christian Schad 'Antworten an einen Kunsthändler', in G.A. Richter, Christian Schad Texte, Materialien, Dokumente, Rottach-Egern, 2004, p. 194)

    It is a feature of most of Schad's great paintings of the 1920s that the eyes of his subjects - often slightly exaggerated in size - are wide open and stare directly at the viewer engaging them in a mysterious communion. It is these eyes, the expression in them, and the kind of communication they appear to establish with the viewer that forms the heart of Schad's paintings and establishes the strange sense of stillness and existential calm at the centre of what is often a busy and distinctly modern composition. An invocation of the modern in the language of the classical, it is the through the eyes of his subjects that Schad bestows the strange sense of mystery and transcendence on his otherwise seemingly pure and objective realism.

    Children, with their wide eyes and open nature, were a favourite subject for Schad throughout his long career. The portrait of his son Nikolaus, which completes this trio of highly personal works from the estate of the artist's son, is one of the first of his paintings made in the 'Magic Realist' style for which he is best known and probably the very last work he completed in Italy before moving to Vienna in the summer of 1925.


    M. Osborn, Der Maler Christian Schad, Berlin, 1927, p. 39 (illustrated).
    Schule und Elternhaus, vol. 9, no. 1, January, 1932 (illustrated on the front cover).
    B. Schad, Christian Schad, Bilder 1920-1930, Milan, 1970, no. 26 (illustrated).
    A. Heesemann-Wilson, Christian Schad, Expressionist, Dadaist und Maler der Neuen Sachlichkeit, Leben und Werk bis 1945, D.Phil. Diss., University of Göttingen, 1978, no. 76, p. 272.
    A.C. Oellers, Ikonographische Untersuchungen zur Bildnismalerei der Neuen Sachlichkeit, D. Phil. Diss, University of Bonn 1978, Mayen, 1983, p. 159 (illustrated p. 85).
    B. Mirabile, Realismo e Visionarietà nell'Arte di Christian Schad 1894-1982, Diss., Rome, 1996, no. 85, p. 351.
    G.A. Richter, Christian Schad, Bonn, 2002, p. 100 (illustrated p. 101).
    T. Ratzka, Christian Schad, Catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Paintings, Cologne, 2008, no. 76 (illustrated p. 121).


    Vienna, Galerie Würthle, Christian Schad, January - February 1927.
    Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung, August - October 1934.
    Milan, Palazzo Reale, Christian Schad, October - December 1972.
    Nuremberg, Kunsthalle, Drei Generationen: Menschenbilder von Christian Schad, Eberhard Schlotter, Peter Sorge, August - October 1975.
    Passau, Oberhausmuseum der Stadt, Christian Schad 1894-1982, September 1989 - January 1990.
    Nuremberg, Stadtmuseum Fembohaus, Christian Schad, 1990.
    Aschaffenburg, Galerie der Stadt, Christian Schad, Die späten Jahre (1942-1982), September - November 1994 (ex. cat.); this exhibition later travelled to Passau, Museum Moderner Kunst and Wilhelmshaven, Kunsthalle.
    Zurich, Kunsthaus, Christian Schad 1894-1982, August - November 1997, no. 11 (illustrated p. 95); this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Emden, Kunsthalle.
    Miesbach, Waitzinger Keller, Christian Schad 1894-1982 - Ein weltberühmter Sohn kehrt heim, May 1999, no. 33, p. 91 (illustrated p. 62).
    Aschaffenburg, Galerie der Stadt, Kinder des 20. Jahrhunderts: Malerei, Skulptur, Fotografie, April - June 2000; this exhibition later travelled to Koblenz, Mittelrhein-Museum.
    Salzburg, Rupertinum, Museum für moderne Kunst, Christian Schad, Die Magien des Realen: Bilder, Grafik, Schadographien aus dem Nachlass, May - July 2002.
    Paris, Musée Maillol, Christian Schad, das Frühwerk (1915-1935): Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Schadographien, November 2002 - February 2003, p. 96 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to New York, Neue Galerie.
    Vienna, Leopold Museum, Christian Schad Retrospective, Life and Work in Context, September 2008 - January 2009, no. 33 (illustrated p. 115).