"I want to start anew. It seems to me that until now I have just been preparing the tools" (E. Schiele, "letter to Anton Pescka", January 1917, quoted in C. M. Nebehay, ed., Egon Schiele (1890-1918): Leben, Briefe, Gedichte, Vienna, 1979, no. 1170).
The year 1917, when Liegende mit angezogenem rechten Bein (Reclining Woman with Raised Right Leg) was executed, was exceptionally productive for Egon Schiele. In January the artist had moved from Mähling to Vienna to take up a post in the city's Imperial and Royal Military Supply Depot. Notwithstanding this wartime employment, Schiele--who had painted and drawn relatively infrequently over the course of the preceding years--now turned his attention to the development of his artistic career with renewed vigour. The publication of a folio of reproductions--which sold out--and his participation in a number of group exhibitions during the year, meant that Schiele's work was becoming known to an ever-widening audience.
The same year also witnessed a notable increase in Schiele's depictions of the nude, as well as the consolidation of a stylistic shift that had already begun to manifest itself. This was a shift from the tense, febrile and angular lines that had formerly characterized his work to a concern with achieving a greater sense of realism and plasticity. This is here evident in the undulating lines and softly rounded forms of the figure in Liegende mit angezogenem rechten Bein, which are rendered in black Conté crayon producing a thicker and more even line than that of pencil. Indeed, as Jane Kallir has observed, "in terms of pure technical mastery, Schiele reached the height of his powers in 1917-1918. Linear perfection and painterly grace were balanced harmoniously" (J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: Drawings and Watercolours, London, 2004, p. 448).
Depicted in a state of undress, the position of the recumbent model in Liegende mit angezogenem rechten Bein, her legs splayed and her right arm looped under right leg, exhibits Schiele's penchant for capturing unusual and often provocative poses. This is enhanced by an ambiguous protrusion and the manner in which the folds of the model's undergarments fall between her legs. Moreover, Schiele has positioned his cartouche signature on the sheet in such a way as to suggest that the work is to be read vertically, although it can be read equally well horizontally, a conceit that was intrinsic to Schiele's working methods and which serves to create a sense of spatial disorientation.