EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF SEYMOUR STEIN
EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)

Stehender männlicher Akt mit verschränkten Armen (Selbstportrait)

EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
Stehender männlicher Akt mit verschränkten Armen (Selbstportrait)
signed and dated 'EGON SCHIELE 1912.' (lower right)
gouache, watercolour and pencil on paper
18 1⁄4 x 11 3⁄4 in. (46.4 x 30 cm.)
Executed in 1912
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York (no. 12.1898).
John G. Lowenstein, London, by whom acquired from the above, on 12 March 1975.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 16 May 1979, lot 74.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, London, 1998, no. 1163, p. 481 (illustrated).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Egon Schiele: Nudes, March - April 1994, n.p. (illustrated pl. 16; illustrated again on the cover).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Stehender männlicher Akt mit verschränkten Armen (Selbstporträt) (Standing Male Nude with Crossed Arms) is an outstanding self-portrait painted by Egon Schiele during the first weeks of 1912. A depiction of the young artist’s naked body twisted into a dramatic and emotion-filled pose, it is one of a spectacular group of nude self-portrait watercolours that explore the expressive potential of the lone, contorted figure in the midst of an empty, existentialist space as an entirely new means of portraiture and self-expression.

Painted in the small Austrian town of Neulengbach in the last months of 1911 and the early weeks of 1912, this unique group of extremely fluid and evocative watercolours derive from the period when, as the artist’s friend and patron Otto Benesch would later recall, Schiele ‘attained his greatest mastery in the medium of watercolour.’ ‘Never again,’ Benesch wrote, was Schiele to ‘attain the touching looseness and lightness, the airy fluffiness’ of this period, and never before had he ‘achieved the same luminous texture, the same iridescent sparkle, the same highly pictorial quality. If ever Schiele was a great painter it was then’ (‘Egon Schiele as a Draughtsman,’ 1950, in E. Benesch, Otto Benesch: Collected Writings, Vol. IV, London, 1973, p. 198).

Along with such pictures as nnlicher Akt (Kallir, no. 1148; Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien) and Hackender Männlicher Akt mit Strumpf (Kallir, no. 1166; Leopold Museum, Vienna), Stehender männlicher Akt… is one of a startling series of self-images that eschew the artist’s earlier emphasis on a sharp, graphic outline in favour of a more fluid and holistic painterly approach. A reflection of wider fin-de-siècle Viennese culture at this time and of the work of Sigmund Freud in particular, the subject of ‘the Self’ was one that also obsessed Schiele. Throughout 1911 and 1912 (prior to the debacle of his Neulengbach arrest for offending the morals of the small-town population with his seemingly carefree, irreligious exhibitionism), Schiele painted himself repeatedly in the guise of a mystic prophet and seeker; as a seer and a noble but impoverished pilgrim or a hermit living far away from the cares of a materialist world in order to search for deeper existential truths.

Donning a rather unusual, Prussian blue-coloured stocking over one knee and with the lower half of his other leg hidden behind his thigh, the figure of Schiele depicted in Stehender männlicher Akt… is effectively cropped into the form of a twisted human torso in such a way as to become a strangely evocative, animalistic expression of vital, animate, human life set starkly against the void of an otherwise empty white page. This emptiness, or what Benesch would call Schiele’s ‘highly sophisticated art of omitting,’ was also a deliberate and intentional contrast to the detailed, colour-filled and distracting decorative backgrounds so often used by his mentor Gustav Klimt (O. Benesch, op. cit., London, 1973, p. 197).

Standing alone, as if defending himself against the assault of a hurricane, the fragile, emaciated and naked figure of Schiele is here reflective of what Klaus Albrecht Schröder has called an ‘imaginative imagery of submission to – and longing for – suffering…’ (Egon Schiele: Eros and Passion, Munich, 2006, p. 53). For Schiele, such deliberately twisted and contorted poses were, however, indicative not just of suffering but also a way of suggesting the inner life of the soul. Perhaps influenced in this regard by the example of his friend, Erwin Osen, a mime artist who made used of eccentric and unusual gestures to unsettle and awaken his audiences to the world of an inner life unrestrained by the habits and conventions of so-called ‘normal’ behaviour, Schiele, in his nude self-portraits, attempted to capture all the variety and emotional turbulence of adolescence and to lay it bare before the viewer.

As Jane Kallir has written in this respect, ‘Here, [Schiele] puffs out his chest, there he pulls down an eyelid, and then again [as in this work] his hair stands on end as though electrified by a high voltage shock. At one moment, he basks in newfound sexual potency, the next he is horrified by his physical desires. Now he struts forward, and then again, he pulls back in evident terror. Haunted by death, yet driven by a passion for life, Schiele in these works reveals both vulnerability and bravado. It is here, above all, that his dualism – his ability to embody contradictions – is most eloquently expressed’ (Egon Schiele, New York, 1994, p. 75).

With his arms folded in a protective gesture, his open-mouthed face displaying a strange mixture of fear and exultation, and his naked body twisting into a position that is half striding forward and half drawing back, the pose that Schiele adopts in this work is evidently one that he thought particularly successful. Towards the end of January 1912, it was this pose that he would select, along with one other example, to use as the basis of what would prove to be one of only a few graphic works the artist created during his life-time. In 1911, Schiele, along with artists like Paul Klee, Alfred Kubin, had joined the Munich artists’ group Sema. It was from this group and their plans to announce themselves through the publishing of a portfolio of lithographs from all their members that the incentive came for Schiele to make his first lithographic prints. Schiele sent two nude self-portrait drawings – one based on the dramatic composition of Stehender männlicher Akt…  along with one other work to Dr M. K. Rohe in Munich for transferal into lithographs for the Sema portfolio. Ultimately it was the other drawing that was chosen by Dr Rohe for the Sema portfolio and the lithograph made of the pose adopted by Stehender männlicher Akt… remains a unique example.

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