After years of struggling for recognition and sales, Schiele suddenly achieved well-deserved success as the First World War slowly drew to its conclusion in 1918. In response to the harsh reality of news from the front and shortages at home, people seemed to have acquired a growing and more diverse taste for art, which, as a result of wartime inflation, had also suddenly become a desirable commodity. The artist wrote to his friend Anton Peschka, "People are unbelievably interested in new art. Exhibitions--be they of conventional or new art--have never before been this crowded" (quoted in J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: Life and Work, New York, 2003, p. 217). Gustav Klimt, who had dominated the avant-garde scene for two decades, died in February 1918, and now Schiele was widely viewed as his successor. Schiele's contributions to the 49th Secession exhibition, which opened in March, practically amounted to a retrospective, taking up the central room of the hall, and all available works were sold within a few days of the opening. He soon became inundated by requests for portrait commissions, and offers from strangers to buy his drawings.
Schiele's drawings of nudes had now attracted a wide audience, partly the result of a more tolerant moral climate near the end of the war, but also because of the artist's more appealing naturalistic treatment of his subjects. The nervous and abrupt line of Schiele's early style had yielded to a simpler, more classical and volumetric treatment of the figure, a pictorial trend that was also observable in the contemporary figurative work of Picasso in Paris and would soon spread over Europe as a revival of humanism and neo-classicism.
Mädchenakt en face, Hände vor dem Gesicht, the present drawing, affirms the strengths and attractions of Schiele's late graphic style. The sexuality of the model and the suppleness of her flesh are displayed in a forthright and unabashed manner. Schiele's line in her contours is assured and unerring, and the artist has used shading sparingly, but to good effect, in describing the fullness of his sitter's figure. The model has feigned modesty by drawing her hands to her face; her gesture, nevertheless, serves to draw the viewer's attention to her robust female form and powerful sexuality. Jane Kallir has written "By sacrificing personality in these drawings, the artist gained a monumentality of form. The 1917-1918 nude became Schiele's allegorical 'Everywoman.' In Schiele's late oeuvre, the nude female --as opposed to her more primly painted portrait counterpart--is in essence a symbol, not a person" (ibid., p. 226).