Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Liegender Akt mit gehobenem Bein
black Conté crayon on paper
11 ¼ x 17 ¾ in. (28.6 x 45 cm.)
Drawn in 1918
Alan Pryce-Jones, New York.
Galerie St. Etienne, New York (acquired from the above, 1968).
Odyssia Gallery, New York (acquired from the above, 1968).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 1985, lot 169.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works Including a Biography and a Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1998, p. 612, no. 2249 (illustrated).
New York, Odyssia Gallery, Drawings and Watercolors, summer 1969.
Des Moines Art Center; Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts and Art Institute of Chicago, Egon Schiele and the Human Form: Drawings and Watercolors, September 1971-February 1972, no. 62 (illustrated).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

After years of vying for recognition and struggling to sell his art, Schiele’s situation belatedly improved during 1918, as the First World War ground to its conclusion. Despite the harsh reality of news from the front and shortages at home, and perhaps as a kind of escapism to mitigate these doleful events of the day, the Viennese public appeared to have acquired a growing and more diverse taste for art, which, as a result of wartime inflation, had become a desirable commodity as well. "People are unbelievably interested in new art,” Schiele wrote to his friend Anton Peschka. “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 Viennese avant-garde for two decades, died in February 1918; Schiele was now widely regarded as his heir and 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. All available works were sold within a few days of the opening. The artist was soon inundated with requests for portrait commissions, and offers from numerous new collectors to buy his drawings.
Schiele's drawings of female figures–both nude and semi-clothed, in more or less overtly erotic poses–now openly attracted a wide audience, partly the result of a more tolerant moral climate that had developed during the course of the war, but also because of the artist's more naturalistic treatment of his subjects. The nervously subjective, angst-driven line of Schiele's early style had given way to more rounded contours that lend a volumetric aspect to the figure, a pictorial trend that was also observable in the contemporary figurative work of Picasso in Paris and would soon spread throughout Europe in the post-war revival of classicism.
Shamelessly immodest in her nudity, the young reclining model in the present drawing nonchalantly displays her sex, which Schiele appears to have deliberately framed within the triangular configuration of her legs for maximum effect, perhaps alluding to Courbet’s notorious The Origin of the World, 1866 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), which, when last exhibited in New York in 2008, was discretely displayed behind a curtain. The girl seems self-absorbed and oblivious to the artist as he observes her. Indeed, Schiele intended that she similarly entice the collector, who perforce becomes a voyeur to this scene.
And to this end Schiele achieved an undeniably skillful mingling of modernist styling with the bluntly risqué content of traditional pornography, a contemporary “pop” component, as it were, in his subject matter. Whereas Matisse resolutely avoided, as a matter of personal taste, any semblance of graphic sexuality in his female nudes, Picasso thrived on it, and indeed made this a forte, especially in his late drawings of the 1960s, which Schiele–at work in Vienna while Sigmund Freud was publishing his revolutionary theories on neuroses, sexuality and psycho-analysis–prefigured in this Liegender Akt a half century before.

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