According to his contemporaries, Klimt’s studio, a private domain reserved for the artist, his models and a very selected circle of colleagues and patrons, was a harem-like place with lounging nude or semi-clothed models always available to pose, or to be sketched in repose. Drawing from the nude was fundamental to Klimt’s practice throughout his career, and many of these drawings related to specific allegorical paintings; figures that appear draped in the oils often began as nudes drawn onto the canvas, which were then ‘clothed’ with paint. However, it is not always clear whether the drawings served as studies for a pre-determined allegorical subject, or its inspiration.
Zusammengekauerter Halbakt (Crouched half-nude) is among a group of drawings that may be related to Klimt’s painting of the mythological character Leda, completed in 1917 and destroyed in the fire at Schloss Immendorf during the Nazi retreat in 1945, and it is also reminiscent of the erotic Japanese woodcuts that interested Klimt. In contrast to the painting, which pictured the figure lying face-down with legs tucked beneath her body, the present drawing shows the model lying on her side with her legs tucked up, her knees almost touch her face, creating an oval shape that is emphasized by the fabric beneath her. She is seen from below, a position that draws the viewer’s attention to her buttocks, thighs and genitals.
Zusammengekauerter Halbakt is further distinguished by Klimt’s rare use of blue crayon, which gives the image an ethereal quality, despite the erotic subject matter. The figure, suspended in the upper half of the picture plane, seems as though it might float from view. Her hands clasped below her chin, the model seems lost in thought or preoccupied with some distant worry, suggesting Klimt’s intent to explore both the senses and the psyche.