EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
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EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
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Property from the Collection of the Viennese Cabaret and Film Star Fritz Grünbaum
EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)

Frau, das Gesicht verbergend

Details
EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
Frau, das Gesicht verbergend
signed and dated 'EGON SCHIELE 1912.' (upper center)
gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper
12 1/4 x 18 7/8 in. (31.5 x 48 cm.)
Executed in 1912
Provenance
Franz Friedrich "Fritz" Grünbaum, Vienna (by 1938).
Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern (1956).
Galerie St. Etienne, New York (acquired from the above, 1956).
William Lincer, New York (acquired from the above, 1957).
Galerie St. Etienne, New York (acquired from the above, 1968).
Morris Moscowitz, St. Louis, Missouri (acquired from the above, 1968).
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 18 May 1978, lot 123a.
Doris Rubin, New York (by 2007).
Richard Nagy, London (acquired from the Estate of the above, 18 December 2013).
Restituted to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum (2022).
Literature
"Egon Schiele" in Mizue, no. 870, September 1977, p. 21.
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, Including a Biography and a Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1998, p. 475, no. 1101 (illustrated, p. 474).
Exhibited
Bern, Gutekunst & Klipstein, Egon Schiele: Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik, September-October 1956, no. 22 (illustrated).
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Egon Schiele: Watercolors and Drawings, January-February 1957, p. 14, no. 14.
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Egon Schiele: Watercolors and Drawings, October-December 1968, p. 109, no. 47 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Egon Schiele, February-May 1975, p. 42, no. 160 (illustrated).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of 20th Century Evening Sale, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art

Lot Essay

With its unusual viewpoint and suggestively intimate pose, Frau, das Gesicht verbergend captures the daring nature of Egon Schiele’s ground-breaking studies of the female figure, an artistic obsession which occupied him throughout his short-lived career. Created in 1912, the composition focuses on the sinuous form of an anonymous female model as she begins to remove her clothing under the artist’s watchful gaze. Adopting an unusual viewpoint, focusing on the model as she twists on to her side while lying on the floor before him, Schiele explores her form with an unwavering, almost voyeuristic, eye, capturing her contorted body as she slowly reveals herself to him. As with the majority of Schiele’s figure studies, the almost sculptural physicality of the model’s body is contrasted against the white void of the blank page surrounding her, the details of the setting subsumed by the artist’s need to capture the vital living nature of the woman before him.
There is a palpable sense of movement in the sitter’s pose, the unusual angles of her body suggesting the artist has captured a fleeting moment, briefly glimpsed as she shifted to allow for a more comfortable position. Her hands appear tangled in the delicate pink undergarment that covers her torso, while her left arm bends to take her weight, exposing the delicate black curls of her underarm hair. From this angle, the model becomes an anonymous figure—while the lower portions of her face are just visible through the crook of her arm, her identity ultimately remains a mystery to the viewer. As a result, our eye is drawn instead to the curves of her body and the layers of material which encase it, her state of semi-undress suggestively hinting at what may lie ahead. This dynamic pose, at once modest and revealing, echoes several art historical precedents, such as Jean-Leon Gerôme’s Phryné before the Areopagus. In Frau, das Gesicht verbergend this apparent act of modesty may have reflected a reluctance on the model’s part to disrobe before the artist’s watchful gaze, a hesitation Schiele suggests she overcame by highlighting the movement of her hands as they clutch at the diaphanous pink slip.
Although the sitter’s identity remains a mystery, the wild tangle of black hair falling loosely in a cloud around her face is reminiscent of the artist’s portraits of the bohemian dancer and mime artist Moa, who had been the focus of several portraits in 1911. Romantically involved with Schiele’s close friend Erwin Osen, Moa was an enigmatic, smoldering beauty, apparently of Polynesian origin, who captivated the artist with her exotic looks and unusually angular poses, drawn from her avant-garde stage act with Osen. Schiele devoted himself to capturing her form from a variety of angles across a series of drawings and paintings, emphasizing her theatrical character with strange poses and a brightly colored cloak that draped her entire body in some compositions, or was pulled back in others to reveal the sensuous contours of her breasts and torso.
In several of the paintings depicting Moa, Schiele draws attention to the texture of her stark, black underarm hair, in one image posing the model with her arm lifted above her so as to better reveal its presence (Kallir, no. 910), and in another allowing it to curl outwards from her arms and cross on to the chest (Kallir, no. 909). Revealed in a similarly shocking fashion, the underarm hair in Frau, das Gesicht verbergend not only offers a stark contrast to the milky white skin of the model, but also highlights to the explosive modernity of Schiele’s artistic vision. By rejecting the traditional idealization of the female nude, and instead emphasizing the presence of body hair, the delicate tones of skin untouched by sunlight, and the blemishes and anatomical quirks which marked the bodies of his models, Schiele sought to challenge and subvert the conservative veneer of contemporary Viennese society, and in so doing, reveal the latent erotic current that existed just below its surface.
The present work is being offered by the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a celebrated cabaret performer, writer, actor and outspoken opponent of Nazism, active in Vienna during the early twentieth century. Born Franz Friedrich Grünbaum in April 1880, Fritz studied law before turning to performance and cabaret, and enjoyed a highly successful and varied theatrical career, which included performances at the famous Viennese theatre Simpl, as well as roles in several early films. Alongside his work as a performer, Fritz held a life-long passion for art, shaped by his father Wilhelm’s activities as a dealer in the city of Brno (Brünn), and he built up a diverse personal collection which ranged from Russian icons and etchings by Old Masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt, to Post-Impressionist and Modern drawings and watercolors by Auguste Rodin, Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac, Max Liebermann, Käthe Kollwitz, and others.
However, it was compositions by the Viennese avant-garde of the early twentieth century and, in particular, the works of Egon Schiele which truly captured Grünbaum’s imagination. Over the course of his life, he purchased over 80 works by the artist, spanning the full range of Schiele’s creative output, from delicate pencil portraits and nude studies executed in gouache or watercolor, to striking, melancholic landscapes and mysterious allegorical subjects in oil.
Shortly after the German annexation of Austria in 1938, Grünbaum was arrested by the Gestapo and subsequently interned at Dachau concentration camp in June 1938, where he perished in January of 1941, after having also spent some time incarcerated in Buchenwald. His art collection, which numbered over 400 works at the time of his arrest, was lost following his wife Lilly’s deportation to the Maly Trostenets concentration camp near Minsk in October 1942, where she was murdered soon after arrival. Frau, das Gesicht verbergend and Frau mit schwarzer Schürze were recently restituted to the Grünbaum family after years spent fighting for their return.

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