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)

Ich liebe Gegensätze

EGON SCHIELE (1890-1918)
Ich liebe Gegensätze
signed, dated and titled 'EGON SCHIELE 24.IV.12. M. ICH LIEBE GEGENSÄTZE' (lower right)
gouache, watercolor and pencil on paper
18 7⁄8 x 12 ½ in. (47.9 x 31.5 cm.)
Executed on 24 April 1912
Franz Friedrich "Fritz" Grünbaum, Vienna (by 1928, from whom spoliated after March 1938).
Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern (1956).
Erich Lederer, Geneva (by 1963, until at least 1985).
Anon. sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 17 June 1987, lot 170.
Serge Sabarsky Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale).
The Woodbridge Company, Toronto.
Private collection, New York (acquired from the above, 1 December 1991).
Restituted to the heirs of Fritz Grünbaum (2023).
A. Comini, "Egon Schiele in Prison" in Albertina-Studien, vol. 2, no. 4, 1964, p. 131, no. 10 (illustrated).
A. Comini, Schiele in Prison, Greenwich, 1973, pp. 93 and 110 (illustrated, p. 93, fig. 35; illustrated on the cover).
A. Comini, Egon Schiele's Portraits, Berkeley, 1974 (illustrated in color, fig. 90).
C.M. Nebehay, Egon Schiele: Leben, Briefe, Gedichte, Salzburg and Vienna, 1979, p. 210 (illustrated, fig. 89).
G. Malafarina, L'opera di Egon Schiele, Milan, 1982, p. 73 (illustrated).
C.M. Nebehay, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele und die Familie Lederer, Bern, 1987, p. 65 (illustrated in color; titled Selbstporträt im Gefängnis).
W. Hofmann, "Egon Schiele: Alles ist lebend tot" in Art: Das Kunstmagazin, October 1987, p. 48.
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1998, pp. 127 and 485, no. 1187 (illustrated, p. 485; illustrated in color, p. 126, pl. 38).
Bern, Gutekunst & Klipstein, Egon Schiele: Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik, September-October 1956, no. 19 (illustrated; titled Selbstbildnis im Gefängnis and with incorrect dimensions).
St. Gallen, Kunstmuseum, Dichtende maler, malende dichter, August-October 1957, no. 684.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Art Autrichien du vingtième siècle, April-May 1961, no. 187 (titled Portrait de l'artiste en prison).
Darmstadt, Mathildenhöhe, Zeugnisse der Angst in der modernen Kunst, June-September 1963, p. 132 (illustrated in color).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Egon Schiele: Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, October 1964, pp. 42 and 49, no. 56 (illustrated, p. 49; titled I Love Contrasts (Self Portrait in Prison)).
Kunsthalle Hamburg, Experiment Weltuntergang: Wien um 1900, April-May 1981, p. 183, no. 198 (illustrated, p. 182; titled Selbstbildnis aus dem Gefängnis).
New York, Neue Galerie, Egon Schiele: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, October 2005-February 2006, pp. 262 and 412-413, no. 95 (illustrated in color, p. 262).

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

In April 1912, the twenty-one year old Expressionist artist Egon Schiele was arrested and imprisoned for a total of twenty-four days by the local authorities in Neulengbach, a small town west of Vienna, where the artist was living at the time. Over the course of his confinement, Schiele produced a powerfully intense suite of works through which he chronicled his experiences and the emotional turmoil he felt, each image a stark, vivid testament to his anguished state during this turbulent period. Among this extraordinary group were four harrowing self-portraits, capturing the artist as he lay in his cell, his body enveloped by layers of blankets and an oversized coat (Kallir, nos. 1186-1189). Dated to Wednesday 24 April 1912, Ich liebe Gegensätze (I love Antithesis) is among the most richly worked watercolors from this small group, and presents a sharply observed study of Schiele’s own features, offering us a glimpse into the artist’s psyche as he awaited his fate.
Schiele had moved to Neulengbach in August 1911, in search of a peaceful escape from the city, where he could focus on his work uninterrupted. Accompanied by his girlfriend, Wally Neuzil, the artist rented a small rustic cottage on the edge of the village, away from the prying eyes of his curious new neighbors. However, his presence soon caused a stir among the locals—a bohemian character, who cut an odd figure in his unusual fashions, Schiele’s eccentric behavior began to draw the ire of the town, not least the fact that he and Wally were unmarried and living together. It was his open invitations to the locals, and in particular their children, to sit for him, that would cause the artist’s downfall. On 13 April 1912, he was arrested by two local constables on suspicion of the corruption of a minor and the display of pornographic material to young children. A number of his drawings were confiscated from his lodgings, and the artist was locked in a cold, dank basement cell of the Neulengbach courthouse. Although he was reportedly not informed of the charges against him for almost a week after his arrest, Schiele was shocked by the accusations and vehemently proclaimed his innocence. Nevertheless, he remained incarcerated through the rest of the month, as he awaited trial.
Throughout this ordeal, the artist kept a diary of his experiences and to keep his sanity, sought ways to create. In the opening entry, written on 16 April 1912, Schiele proclaimed: “At last alleviation of pain! At last paper, pencils, brush, colors for drawing and writing. Excruciating were those wild, confused, crude, those unchanging, unformed, monotonously gray, gray hours which I had to pass—robbed, naked, between cold bare walls—like an animal. It would quickly have led to madness for those who are innerly weak; and soon I too would have gone mad, had this stupefaction, day in, day out, lasted any longer” (“Egon Schiele’s Prison Diary,” reproduced in A. Comini, Schiele in Prison, Greenwich, 1973, p. 41). Initially using his fingers and saliva to “paint” on the walls of his cell, the marks rapidly evaporating and disappearing before his eyes, as well as molding a few sculptures out of scraps of bread, within a few days the artist had succeeded in persuading his captors to allow him materials with which to work. “I can be busy,” he rejoiced, “and so I will endure what otherwise would have been unendurable. I humbled myself, lowered myself; I requested, entreated, begged for this, and would have whimpered, if there had been no other way. Oh art! What would I not take upon myself for you!” (ibid., p. 42).
Over the following three weeks Schiele created thirteen searingly stark watercolors, through which he translated the monotony of his experiences, the grim reality of his surroundings, and his own physical and mental transformation through his confinement. In one work he trained his eye on the architecture of the prison, creating a delicate linear view of the hallway leading from his cell through the basement, in a composition reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s depiction of the corridor of the psychiatric hospital at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Schiele had already paid homage to the Dutch artist during his time at Neulengbach, painting a view of his small rented bedroom (Kallir, no. 220; Wien Museum, Vienna) in a manner that directly echoed Van Gogh’s The Bedroom from his time at the Yellow House in Arles (The Art Institute of Chicago). In another work, the artist catalogues the minute details of his cell, and celebrates the small pop of color from an orange, which provided him with a brief moment of solace: “In the middle of the dirty gray of the blankets, a glowing orange, which [Wally] brought me, as the single shining light in the room” (ibid., p. 45). Wally had remained a steadfast companion throughout the incident, appearing daily at the tiny basement window that looked into the artist’s cell, where she threw presents, pieces of fruit and notes of encouragement through the thick bars. “This little colorful spot did me unspeakable good,” Schiele wrote in his diary (ibid., p. 45).
Each of the self-portraits from his imprisonment show the artist in varying states of distress, his expression ranging from quiet resignation, to grief-stricken to intensely fearful, as he struggled to comprehend and process what was happening to him. The titles of the works are taken from the handwritten aphoristic statements the artist added to each sheet, such as “Hindering the Artist is a crime, it is murdering life in the Bud!” and “For Art and for my loved ones I will gladly endure to the end” (Kallir, nos. 1186 and 1189). In Ich liebe Gegensätze, Schiele proclaims “I love antithesis,” referring to the contrast or opposition between two things, perhaps a reference to his own feelings of dislocation within the prison, and his inherent belief that such an artistic light did not belong in this unspeakably horrifying place. In the present work, Schiele huddles on the small cot, his knees pulled towards his chest as he uses his bright red overcoat as a blanket, the only source of warmth within the cold, damp cell. His head pokes out from beneath the fabric, his expression one of resignation and exhaustion, a short beard growing along his jaw, while deep, bruise-like shadows gather underneath his eyes.
On the same day that Ich liebe Gegensätze was completed, Schiele’s diary entry reveals a man in crisis, slowly losing hope: “Perhaps I have to spend months in prison; yes, perhaps I will become sick and die here before my innocence is established. No help is in sight—no friend within reach…” (ibid., p. 47). This is followed by a passage describing a great outpouring of emotions that had engulfed him: “cries—soft, timid, wailing; screams—loud, urgent, imploring; groaning sobs—desperate, fearfully desperate. Finally apathetic stretching out with cold limbs, deathly afraid, bathed in shivering sweat” (ibid., p. 48). It appears to be this final moment that the artist has chosen to capture in Ich liebe Gegensätze, as he moves away from the visceral, physical expression of his anguish, and instead turns inwards, shaken and exhausted. His hands, so often a sign through which the artist conveyed his extreme emotions, remain hidden beneath the folds of fabric, an indication perhaps of the feelings of resignation that left him feeling paralyzed. Though he would have initially been lying down on the cot, as suggested here by the flow of the crumpled white sheet that spreads out to the left hand side of the artist, Schiele shifts the orientation of the composition so that he now appears upright, imbuing his figure with a certain sense of energy that perhaps hints at the spirit of defiance that remained within him.
Schiele was finally released on 7 May 1912, following a trial in which the judge set fire to one of the artist’s drawings in condemnation of his work. Though he received a fine for the charge of possessing indecent images, which referred to the artist’s own drawings and paintings which were scattered through his studio, Schiele was acquitted of all other charges. He returned to Vienna immediately afterwards, in the company of his close friend and supporter Heinrich Benesch, to whom Schiele gifted several works from his prison drawings in thanks for his help. The Neulengbach incident left lasting emotional and mental scars on the artist, and dramatically altered the direction of his work for several months thereafter. Existing on the very edge of propriety and challenging traditional social mores, the ordeal stands as a shocking reminder that Schiele was an artist deeply misunderstood within his own time, constantly in danger of being persecuted for his visionary aesthetic.

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