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


EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
signed with initial and dated 'S. 1910.' (center right) and signed with initial again 'S' (lower left); with Nachlass stamp (on the reverse)
watercolor and black crayon on paper
17 ¼ x 12 in. (43.7 x 30.4 cm.)
Executed in 1910
Estate of the artist.
Franz Friedrich "Fritz" Grünbaum, Vienna (from whom spoliated after March 1938).
Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern (1956).
Viktor Fogarassy, Graz.
Dr. Rudolf Leopold, Vienna.
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London.
Lester and Joan Avnet, New York.
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York.
Fred Ebb, New York (acquired from the above, circa 1966).
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York (bequest from the above, 2005).
Restituted to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum (2023).
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1998, p. 425, no. 686 (illustrated).
Bern, Gutekunst & Klipstein, Egon Schiele: Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik, September-October 1956, p. 17, no. 4 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Egon Schiele: Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, October 1964, pp. 41 and 45, no. 32 (illustrated, p. 45).
New York, La Boetie Gallery, Egon Schiele and His Circle, May-June 1971 (illustrated, pl. 1).

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Created when he was just twenty years old, Egon Schiele’s Selbstbildnis is one of a series of radical and pioneering self-portrait drawings and watercolors that the prodigious young artist created over the course of 1910. It was during this year that Schiele reached an important breakthrough in his work, and the first signs of his mature style began to emerge, undergoing a dramatically swift evolution from a Klimt-inspired Jugendstil manner of painting towards his own unique and dynamic form of Expressionism. “I went by way of Klimt til March,” he wrote to his guardian, Dr Josef Czermak at this time. “Today I believe, I am his very opposite” (letter to J. Czermak, 1910; quoted in R. Steiner, Egon Schiele, The Midnight Soul of the Artist, Cologne, 2004, p. 30). The works that most distinctly reflect these developments are the near-obsessive group of self-portraits that Schiele worked on throughout the year, in which he diligently analyzed his own image through a highly focused lens.
Together these works may be read as a reflection of Schiele’s own search for a sense of identity during this pivotal period of his life, as he transitioned from adolescence into adulthood, and looked to solidify his artistic persona. As Jane Kallir has noted, self-portraiture offered Schiele both an opportunity for internal reflection, and a potent means through which to explore his public image: “These works, viewed as a series, make evident a dualism that was already nascent in the artist’s earliest self-portraits: while exploring his psyche, Schiele nonetheless always remains conscious of the image he is presenting to the public; he is object as well as subject. The self-portraits thus evoke a tantalizing combination of sincerity and affection. Even in the most unabashedly self-revelatory of the works, the element of artifice rescues the presentation from emotional excess. This dualism was a tightrope that Schiele walked with the fearless grace of somnambulist, risking mannerism on the one side, bathos on the other” (Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1990, p. 68).
Across the 1910 self-portraits, the artist played with his identity, shifting from an elegant dandyish figure in one work, to a meek, anguished character plagued by doubts and anxiety in the next. In others, he transforms himself into a wraith-like figure, his limbs cast in deliberately exaggerated, contorted poses that echo the movements of contemporary avant-garde dance and cabaret performances. In the present Selbstbildnis, the artist’s head floats independently on the page, the expanse of negative space around him focusing our attention on his expression. Schiele was fascinated by the often pregnant sense of emptiness achieved in Japanese woodblock prints, and found that the contrast between a blank page and isolated figurative details granted his portraits a heightened sense of existential weight and psychological intensity. Rather than gazing directly towards the viewer in a challenging way, here the artist appears distracted, his eyes heavy as he gazes into the distance, as if lost in thought. Using a mixture of delicate washes of watercolor and richly textured strokes of black crayon, Schiele vividly records his features, cataloguing the way his tousled hair frames his face, the slight creases of skin around his mouth and nose, the soft shadows that fall across his cheeks. The heavy set of his eyelids, meanwhile, lends the impression that he is on the brink of sleep, perhaps blinking away exhaustion as he struggles to stay focused on the task ahead of him.
Selbstbildnis was formerly in the collection of the renowned Broadway lyricist, Fred Ebb, who had an intriguing connection to the first owner of the work—Fritz Grünbaum. Ebb, with his writing partner John Kander, composed the music for Cabaret, the iconic musical set in Berlin during the final years of the Weimar Republic. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Goodbye to Berlin, the show captures not only the heady decadence of the era, but also the creeping sense of darkness that would soon engulf Germany and plunge Europe into war. For the character of the Emcee, the eccentric Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub, the team looked to the legendary figure of Fritz Grünbaum for inspiration, and his extraordinary stage performances in Vienna during the inter-war years. Like Grünbaum, Ebb had a deep passion for German and Austrian Expressionist art, collecting drawings and works on paper by many of the leading figures active within the avant-garde between 1910 and 1925. Alongside works by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Gustav Klimt, Ebb owned at least eight drawings by Schiele, four of which were portraits. Ebb purchased the present work in 1966, and it remained in his personal collection for almost four decades until his death in 2004, at which time it was bequeathed to the Morgan Library in New York.

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