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Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Property from an Important New York Estate
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Stehender Rückenakt

Details
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Stehender Rückenakt
signed with initial and dated 'S'10.' (lower right)
gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper
22 1/8 x 13 in. (56.1 x 33.1 cm.)
Executed in 1910
Provenance
Dr. Frederick Gerstel, New York (before 1984).
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York (possibly acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, August 1985.
Literature
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, Including a Biography and a Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1998, p. 411, no. 558 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Vienna, Akademie der Bildenden Künste; Milan, Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera; Palermo, Villa Zito; Tel Aviv Museum; Hamburger Kunsthalle; Salzburg, Rupertinum; Graz, Schloss Plankenwirth; Innsbruck, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum; Bottrop, Josef Albers Museum and Nürnberger Kunsthalle, Egon Schiele, vom Schüler zum Meister: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, 1906-1918, January 1984-June 1986, p. 139, no. 40 (illustrated in color).
Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina, Campidoglio and Venice, Museo d'arte moderna Ca’ Pesaro, Egon Schiele, June-November 1984, p. 193, no. 66 (illustrated in color; titled Nudo in piedi di spalle).
New York, Serge Sabarsky Gallery, Expressionists: Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings by Twelve German Expressionists, December 1984, p. 156, no. 76 (illustrated in color, p. 157).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Egon Schiele: Nudes, March-April 1994 (illustrated in color, pl. 5).
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Coming of Age: Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth, November 2005-January 2006, no. 48.
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Egon Schiele's Women, October-December 2012, no. 11.

Lot Essay

Executed in 1910, Stehender Rückenakt emerged during a period of radical stylistic experimentation in Egon Schiele’s oeuvre, as he boldly stepped out from the shadow of his mentor Gustav Klimt and began to develop a powerfully expressive pictorial language of his own. Schiele’s compositions from this period proposed a startling re-conception of the modern nude, casting his models in striking, unexpected poses that unabashedly address and celebrate their inherent sexuality. Dating from the height of these experiments, the present work elegantly combines the intense observation of the human figure with the artist’s uniquely expressive form of stylization, to create a dynamic, visceral portrayal of the nude female body.
Focusing almost entirely on the woman’s elegant back, her undulating muscles pulled taut as she reaches above her head to adjust her flaming red hair, Schiele grants the figure an imposing monumentality within the composition, her form filling almost the entire sheet of paper as she stretches upwards. This effect is further enhanced by the tightly cropped framing employed by the artist, which causes her arms and legs to disappear off the page, their edges dissolving into soft pools of watercolor. Casting her adrift in the vast, empty space of the blank page, Schiele focuses our attention on the sheer vitality and raw sensuality of her nude body, imbuing her figure with a potent energy that seems to radiate from her flushed form as she stands before us. The inclusion of the sitter’s sultry black stockings, meanwhile, may be a suggestive nod to the sensual act of undressing the model has just completed under Schiele’s watchful gaze. This small detail lends the scene a palpable sexual tension, suggesting an intimacy between the artist and his model that goes beyond the purely observational.
Executed in a combination of gouache, watercolor and pencil, Stehender Rückenakt illustrates Schiele’s growing technical confidence during this period of his career. Switching decisively from charcoal to pencil shortly before this composition was begun, Schiele achieves a new clarity and crispness in his line, rendering the contours of the figure in sharp, flowing strokes that appear to almost quiver with energy. Reinforcing the isolation of his model on the page, he emphasizes the strong meandering contour of the figure by introducing a brilliant white "halo" effect, which hugs her form, pushing the body forward so that it appears to float independently above the sheet. The varying density of the watercolor washes, meanwhile, reveals the intensely nuanced studies of flesh tones Schiele was conducting at the time. Vibrant, sweeping strokes of mauve, scarlet, and peach overlap and bleed into one another, the fluid effect of the pigments alternately indicating the musculature of the sitter’s back, the fleshy curve of the buttocks, or the elegant juncture between the model’s neck and her jawline, drawing our attention to the features which held the most fascination for the artist.

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