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

Liegender weiblicher Akt

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Liegender weiblicher Akt
signed and dated 'Egon Schiele 1912' (lower right)
pencil and watercolour on paper
12 3/8 x 19 in. (31.5 x 48.2 cm.)
Executed in 1912
Anonymous sale, Kornfeld & Klipstein, Bern, 19 June 1965, sale 116, lot 1048.
Felix Landau, Los Angeles.
Richard Nagy, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1990s.
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, London and New York, 1998, no. 1141 (illustrated p. 479).
Los Angeles, Felix Landau Gallery, Egon Schiele (1890-1918): Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, January - February 1967, no. 23 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

Liegender weiblicher Akt (Lying female nude) is a figure study that Schiele made using an elegant economy of means in 1912. Depicting a svelte reclining woman, possibly asleep, Schiele, in this work, demonstrates his increased assurance and command of line, pushing the boundaries of his graphic art to an extreme through the use of a thin fluid and spidery line and intense highlights of colour.

The model for this figure is probably Schiele's girlfriend, Valerie Neuzil or 'Wally', a figure who dominates much of Schiele's work throughout 1912. She is recognisable in many of his drawings from this period by her green eyes and red hair, often pulled back, as here, by a dark blue hair band. In this work Schiele has concentrated on the contours of her body as if they were an erotic landscape. Using only a single, seemingly meandering pencil line to magically define the form and volume of her body, Schiele has also given expression to her inner state of repose through the apparent easiness and languid nature of this line. His controlled use of this line is augmented with colour only at key points such as the girl's hair and hairband, armpits, nipples and crotch where its vividness lends her body a degree of erotic intensity.

For Schiele this eroticism represented the essence of the inner being - that mysterious and, for him, spiritual lifeforce - that lay beneath the outer shell of the body which the genius of his line could so readily capture. As in this work, it was through the subtle use of coloured highlights to express such things as tousled hair, flushed cheeks or aroused nipples that Schiele intimated at the erotic interior life of his models.

The distinctly animate nature of this work is starkly contrasted with the empty page of the sheet beneath it. As was often his custom, Schiele has completed the work in the Japanese style by signing this empty space with his cartouche-like signature and as if the drawing were a vertical work. In some cases, it is believed that the signing of his work in this way was evidence that Schiele actually wished his reclining figures to be seen vertically. This is presumably not the case with this drawing.

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