Gustav Klimt's drawings are among the finest creations in the artist's oeuvre. This is particularly true of Klimt's later years, when drawing became in many ways, the key area with which he could freely express his notions of femininity. Women were as fundamental to Klimt's art as drawing was, and it was through the female form that he was able to convey complex abstract ideas. As identified by Alice Strobl, Kauernder Halbakt belongs to a large group of preparatory studies for the oil painting Die Braut (The Bride), an elaborate figure arrangement exploring the cycle of human existence, which was left unfinished upon the artist's death in February 1918. Klimt devoted himself intensively to the theme of the female Eros throughout his life and through the overt eroticism of drawings like Kauernder Halbakt and important allegorical paintings like Die Braut he sought to establish sexuality as life's fundamental motivating force.
Once part of the of the collection of Christian M. Nebehay, a noted Klimt scholar whose father was a friend and art dealer of the artist, Kauernder Halbakt offers an immediate revelation of Klimt's skill as a draughtsman. The innovative use of vibrating movement and turbulent pencil stokes add to the image's sense of erotic energy, whilst the model's outer limbs are merely hinted at, suggesting the momentary nature of her physical presence. Created in the harem-like atmosphere of his secluded studio in Heitzing, Klimt's Kauernder Halbakt places the model in a dramatically foreshortened foetal position, her upper torso clothed to heighten the erotic tension through the interplay between what is revealed and what is concealed. In this way, Kauernder Halbakt is noticeably influenced by Japanese art and like the explicit woodblock prints that adorned Klimt's walls. Here, Klimt treats the model's exposed sex with a sacred earnestness, intimating its importance as the source of human life and a primal element in sexual arousal. This relationship between the sensual and the spiritual is further emphasized by the model's close-eyed expression, which reads equally as rapt absorption and erotic ecstasy, creating a powerful evocation of the poetic mystery of the female.