Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
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Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Sitzendes Mädchen, ihren Mund bedeckend

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Sitzendes Mädchen, ihren Mund bedeckend
signed and dated 'Egon Schiele 1914' (lower centre); with the Nachlass stamp (on the reverse)
pencil on paper
17¾ x 11 1/8 in. (45.1 x 28.3 cm.)
Drawn in 1914
Hans Ankwicz-Kleehoven.
Galerie Gurlitt, Munich.
Kornfeld & Klipstein, Bern.
Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired at the above by the present owner in the early 1960s.
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, 1998, London, no. 1573 (illustrated p. 531).
Los Angeles, Felix Landau Gallery, Egon Schiele (1890-1918): Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, January - February 1967, no. 32.
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Lot Essay

Despite his growing reputation, Schiele barely managed to eke out a living from his work, and the year 1914 brought increasing financial pressures. The artist had pinned high hopes on an exhibition of his work at Hans Goltz's gallery in Munich in the summer of the previous year, believing that it would help him gain entry into the German market. The results were disappointing, however, and Goltz wrote Schiele, 'Your drawings will always be interesting for connoisseurs and even for some nonconnoisseurs, and so they will remain saleable in the future... But your paintings, in the present phase of your development, are unsaleable in Germany' (quoted in J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: Life and Work, New York, 2003, p. 168). Schiele's patrons Otto Benesch and Arthur Roessler continued to bail him out of his worst difficulties, but they resented being taken for granted. By the beginning of 1914, Schiele was 2,500 kronen in debt, a full year's income for a middle-class family, and his landlord, an architect who was formerly sympathetic to the artist's plight, threatened to evict him.

Roessler suggested to Schiele that he try printmaking, in order to take advantage of growing and lucrative print market in Germany. Using tools and plates purchased for him by Roessler, Schiele commenced in February 1914 a series of six drypoints (Kallir, nos. G.3-G.8). He quickly and easily mastered this medium, but then lost interest in it by the end of the summer. These etchings and contemporaneous drawings display what Kallir has called 'stitchlike cross-hatching', and she noted that 'It is impossible to determine whether the technique simply carried over into the etching media or rather evolved from it' (in cat. rais., op. cit., p. 520). Kallir observed that Oskar Kokoschka used a similar technique in his drawings done in 1909-1910. The extensive use of related zigzag and parallel hatchings was also an essential element in the expressionist woodcuts of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff from 1913 onwards. Schiele's deployment of this 'stitched' line added tension and emphasis to the delicate character of his drypoints and pencil drawings, and served as a counterweight on the artist's seemingly effortless and virtuosic draughtsmanship, investing it with a fresh measure of nervous and unsettled energy. He continued to use this technique until mid-1915, when he was drafted to serve in the Austrian army during the First World War.

The 'stitched' line complemented the saw-tooth contours that Schiele had also introduced into his drawings, which were used mainly to depict the ruffled edges of his model's undergarments. Indeed, the emergence of these linear variants in Schiele's drawings coincided with the artist's increasing emphasis on partially clothed figures, in which he exploited the contrasts between covered and bared areas of the body. In the present drawing the viewer is allowed a glimpse of only a brief length of the model's thighs, that between the tops of her stockings and the edges of her bloomers. Her pose and attire may seem modest in comparison to the blatant sexual display seen in other Schiele drawings and watercolors during this period, but they are suggestively indecorous nonetheless, especially in the context of the artist's times, when such casual body language and the exposure of undergarments carried more heightened erotic connotations than they do today. The model's gesture of raising her hand to her mouth reflects her false modesty; as her eyes beckon to the onlooker she closes off her lips, perhaps concealing a coquettish smile.

Kallir noted (ibid.) that the model in a closely related drawing, no. 1574 in her catalogue raisonné, is Valerie Neuzil, known as 'Wally', the artist's girlfriend and most frequent model since 1911. She is very likely the sitter here as well. She and Schiele were now approaching the end of their relationship. Following the marriage of Schiele's beloved sister Gertrude ('Gerti') in November 1914, the artist himself was eager to settle down and raise a family, but he was concerned about his girlfriend's poor background and promiscuous behaviour. By this time Schiele was on better footing financially, thanks to the patronage of Heinrich Böhler, and could approach the more respectably bourgeois Harms sisters, Adele and Edith. By early 1915 Schiele fell in love with Edith, and they married in June of that year, only days before the artist was mobilized. Schiele tried to retain Wally's services as a model, but Edith would have none of it, and Wally then departed, never to see Schiele again.

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