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Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
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Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Selbstbildnis mit gespreizten Fingern

Details
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Selbstbildnis mit gespreizten Fingern
oil on metallic paint on canvas
28 1/8 x 10 7/8 in. (71.5 x 27.5 cm.)
Painted in 1909
Provenance
Anonymous sale, Dorotheum, Vienna.
Fritz Lunzer, Vienna, by 1930.
Viktor Fogarassy, Graz.
Internationale Kunstanstalt, Zurich.
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York.
Private collection, New York, by whom acquired from the above in 1984.
Literature
O. Nirenstein, Egon Schiele: Persönlichkeit und Werk, Vienna, 1930, no. 55.
O. Kallir, Egon Schiele: Oeuvre-Katalog der Gemälde, Vienna, 1966, no. 91 (illustrated p. 188).
R. Leopold, Egon Schiele: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Salzburg, 1972, no. 134 (illustrated p. 544).
L. Edwards, 'Ach Wien' in The Art Gallery, April 1965, p. 17.
'Egon Schiele', in Mizue, no. 776, September 1969, p. 22.
A. Comini, Egon Schiele's Portraits, Berkeley, 1974 (illustrated pl. 16 and on the cover).
C. Nebehay, Egon Schiele, 1890-1918: Leben, Briefe, Gedichte, Salzburg and Vienna, 1979 (illustrated fig. 49).
'Egon Schiele-Gedenkstätte', in Bezirksmuseum Hietzing, no. 2, June 1980.
H. Kuchling, Egon Schiele und sein Kreis, Ramerding, 1982, p. 17.
G. Malafarina, L'Opera di Egon Schiele, Milan, 1982, no. 130 (illustrated p. 89).
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, London and New York, 1998, no. 153, p. 289 (illustrated p. 153 and pl. 9).
Exhibited
Vienna, Neue Galerie, Unbekanntes von Egon Schiele, October 1930.
Salzburg, Residenz-Galerie, Expressionismus: Malerei in Österreich, Deutschland, Schweiz, June - September 1957.
Vienna, Museen der Stadt, Wien um 1900, June - August 1964, no. 98.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, February - April 1965, no. 6 (illustrated).
Salzburg, Residenzgalerie, Österreichische Meisterwerke aus Privatbesitz, June - September 1967, no. 82 (illustrated).
Viennna, Österreichische Galerie, Egon Schiele - Gemälde, April - September 1968, no. 17 (illustrated).
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Kunst in Österreich 1900-1930, July - September 1974, no. 190.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Egon Schiele, February - March 1975, no. 14 (illustrated).
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Experiment Weltuntergang: Wien um 1900, April - May 1981, no. 158 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture & Design, July - October 1986, no. 84.
New York, Neue Galerie, Egon Schiele: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, October 2005 - February 2006, p. 394, no. P6 (illustrated p. 168).
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium

Lot Essay

'I came by way of Klimt.' Egon Schiele.



'The new artists...come from the area mapped out by the Kunstschau...The influence specifically of Klimt is unmistakable...Probably many of these artists will not complete the course, but there are some nevertheless whom I consider inwardly and outwardly strong enough to win through. I regard one of them as the extraordnarily gifted Egon Schiele' (Arthur Roessler, review of the 'Neukünstler' group show December 1909, Arbeiter Zeitung quoted in Frank Whitford, Egon Schiele London, 1981, p. 64)


1909 was the year of Egon Schiele's great breakthrough to artistic maturity. Although only nineteen years old and, until the summer of the year, still a student at the Viennese Academy of Art, Schiele's prodigious talent had already asserted itself to the point where he had become recognised by Gustav Klimt and many others as one of the greatest hopes for the future of Austrian art. Selbstbildnis mit gespreizten Fingern (Self-Portrait with Spread Fingers) is an important early work from late 1909 that reveals Schiele already beginning to move beyond the dominant influence of his mentor Klimt towards a new, more existentially aware Expressionist art.

In the summer of 1909, Schiele had been given the great honour of being invited by Klimt to partake in that year's Internationale Kunstschau- the Secessionist exhibition at which one year before, the young Kokoschka had triumphed and established himself as the leading young artist in the city. In the 1909 Kunstschau Schiele exhibited four paintings that not only demonstrated his artistic maturity but which also established his reputation as a successor of Klimt and a keen rival for Kokoschka.

Selbstbildnis mit gespreizten Fingern (Self-Portrait with spread fingers) was painted in the immediate aftermath of this exhibition and shortly before the Neukünstler exhibition on which Arthur Roessler reported on Schiele in the glowing terms outlined above. In many ways the painting, with its self-conscious depiction of the artist's features emerging from a typical gold-ground Seccessionist background is an announcement of Schiele's arrival into the contemporary art world of Vienna.

Still reliant on Klimt's style in many ways, this painting takes the thin elongated format and decorative style of several of Klimt's recent works, most notably Judith II, also of 1909. Like this painting, but going even further in a way that anticipates much of his later work, the artist has chosen to render his self-image solely through a representation of his face and his expressively gesticulating hands. Unlike Klimt, who has concentrated on these features in Judith II, but incorporated them into sumptuous decorative motif of high Secessionist style, Schiele has completely isolated these two features by contrasting them against a black void-like background. This move, which also anticipates Schiele's later complete abandonment of Secessionist décor in favour of an empty background, lends the composition an expressive weight and highlights the persona of Schiele as both a unique and exceptional individual and as a feature of his art. As in many of Schiele's later self-portraits, the artist is clearly playing a role within the picture. As in Klimt's Judith II, his face appears to be made-up with cosmetics, his cheeks rouged and his lips reddened. Earlier photographs of the painting reveal that Schiele's face in this work also at one time sported a beauty-spot just like Klimt's Judith. In this work, as in so many other later paintings by Schiele, the notion of Self and of masquerade are all wrapped up together within the strange logic of the work.

With his head framed with a crown or halo-like corner of gold and his hands gesticulating a directional path from right to left, Schiele shows himself, in the manner of a mime artist illustrating a strong sense of purpose and psychological intent. In this and in the quite radical stylistic reduction of this portrait, Selbstbildnis mit gespreizten Fingern is a clear statement of how Schiele saw himself as working 'through' or 'by way' of Klimt and the Seccession, as he once said, towards a newer more transcendent style all of his own. Like Kokokoschka's grandstanding as a Christ-like martyr with shaved head at the 1909 Kunstschau, this self-portrait is also to some extent an announcement by Schiele of artistic identity. Painted in such a way that it evokes a sense of it being an illustration of the artist's first appearance on stage, it presents the young Schiele as a magician mime-artist or mystic about to take his place in the spotlight.

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