Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Weiblicher Torso in Unterwäsche und schwarzen Strümpfen

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Weiblicher Torso in Unterwäsche und schwarzen Strümpfen
signed and dated 'EGON SCHIELE 1917' (lower center)
gouache, watercolor and black Conté crayon on paper
18 1/8 x 11 ¾ in. (46 x 29.8 cm.)
Executed in 1917.
Benedikt Fred Dolbin, Vienna and New York.
Serge and Vally Sabarsky, New York (acquired from the Estate of the above); Estate sale, Christie’s, New York, 6 May 2009, lot 6.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
S. Sabarsky, Egon Schiele: Watercolors and Drawings, New York, 1983, p. 91, no. 32 (illustrated in color).
S. Sabarsky, Egon Schiele, New York, 1985, p. 223, no. 153 (illustrated in color).
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, Including a Biography and a Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1990, p. 579, no. 1975 (illustrated).
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, Including a Biography and a Catalogue Raisonné, Expanded Edition, New York, 1998, p. 579, no. 1975 (illustrated).
Munich, Galerie Ilse Schweinsteiger, Egon Schiele, August-October 1976.
Vienna, Galerie Würthle, Egon Schiele, May-June 1977.
Salzburg, Galerie Welz, June 1977.
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art, Egon Schiele, April-June 1979, no. 58 (illustrated in color).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd, Egon Schiele: An Exhibition of Watercolours and Drawings, June-August 1979, p. 11, no. 49 (illustrated, p. 43).
Nyon, Galerie Loyse von Oppenheim, Egon Schiele: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle aus den Beständen des Historischen Museums der Stadt Wien und aus amerikanischem Privatbesitz ausgewählt von Serge Sabarsky, May-July 1980.
Vienna, Historisches Museum der Stadt; Neue Galerie der Stadt Linz; Munich, Museum Villa Stuck and Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Egon Schiele: Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, September 1981-June 1982, p. 189, no. 97 (illustrated in color).
Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina; Venice, Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna, Ca' Pesaro and Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Egon Schiele, June 1984-January 1987, p. 196, no. 153 (illustrated in color).
Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Egon Schiele, September-December 1987, p. 191, no. 99 (illustrated in color, p. 150).
Städtische Galerie Rosenheim; Florence, Palazzo Strozzi; Herforder Kunstverein im Daniel-Pöppelmann-Haus; Leverkusen, Erholungshaus der Bayer A.G.; Frankfurt, Jahrhunderthalle Hoechst; Bari, Castello Svevo; Genoa, Museo Villa Croce; Ferrara, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea di Palazzo Massari; Linz, Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum; Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen; Berlin, Käthe-Kollwitz-Museum; Passau, Museum moderner Kunst; Ulmer Museum; Prague, Palais Wallenstein and Paris, Musée-Galerie de la Seita, Egon Schiele: 100 Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, May 1988-February 1993, p. 182, no. 88 (illustrated in color).
Roslyn, Nassau County Museum of Art, Egon Schiele: A Centennial Retrospective, January-April 1990, p. 174, no. 88 (illustrated in color).
Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, Egon Schiele: Acquarelli e dipinti, May-June 1991, p. 150, no. 60 (illustrated in color).
Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet; Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec; Lisbon, Culturgest; Aschaffenburg, Kunsthalle Jesuitenkirche and Blumeninsel Mainau, Schloss Mainau, Egon Schiele: Cent oeuvres sur papier, June 1993-November 1994, no. 91.
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Egon Schiele, February-May 1995, p. 181, no. 115 (illustrated in color).
Bad Frankenhausen, Panorama Museum; Städtische Galerie Klagenfurt; Krakow, International Cultural Center and Ljubljana, Cankarjev dom Gallery, Egon Schiele: 100 Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, November 1995-June 1997, no. 91.
New York, The Serge Sabarsky Foundation, Egon Schiele: Drawings and Watercolors, June 1996.
New York, Neue Galerie, Egon Schiele: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, October 2005-February 2006, p. 421, no. D141 (illustrated in color, p. 306).
Special notice
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Jussi Pylkkanen
Jussi Pylkkanen

Lot Essay

This erotically charged rendering of a young woman in a state of undress demonstrates why Egon Schiele has been described as “one of the foremost draughtsman of the twentieth century” (H. Glück, “Art Events in Austra” in Parnassus, vol. 1, no. 2, 15 February 1929, p. 6). Intimately executed, this delicate, yet powerful, portrait is an example of the artist’s mature style which had been developing over a number of years, and which—in the months before this work was executed—resulted in a new found confidence for the artist and the critical reception of his art. The First World War was coming to its inevitable conclusion and Vienna was on the verge of becoming one of Europe’s most exciting artistic and social centers, with Schiele at its heart.

Although dressed only in an unassuming combination of white petticoat and black stockings, Schiele’s anonymous figure still succeeds in exuding an aura of potent sexuality. His fluid line traces the beginning of a slender neckline before moving down to demarcate a pair of naked shoulders. Defining the silhouette of her body, Schiele’s black crayon moves on to mark out her trim waist before recording her hips and stocking-clad legs. Unlike many of his more sexually explicit portraits, in Weiblicher Torso in Unterwäsche und schwarzen Strümpfen (Female Torso in Lingerie and Black Stockings), Schiele manages to achieve a sense of heightened sexuality by leaving his subject’s clothes on. Thus the ruffles of the lacey garment (with one strap seductively slipped off the shoulder) and the black stockings invites the viewer to imagine what tantalizingly might lie underneath. In the present work, with the absence of a face Schiele concentrates on the delicate nature of the cloth with which he swaths the young woman’s body. He accentuates her slender figure by his rendition of the tight fitting undergarments, focusing extra attention on the dovetailed folds of the garment which leads the eye down to her slender waist. The model for this work was most likely Schiele’s wife Edith, or perhaps his sister-in-law Adele Harms. Harms was one of the artist’s regular models and appears in a series of works from the same period dressed in a similar slip and black stockings, but with the addition of a pair of high-heeled boots. Indeed, when read together this series resembles appears a striptease, which concludes with the model dressed only in her black stockings.

By 1917, the year of the present work, Schiele’s drawings of female figures—both nude and semi-clothed, in overtly or ambiguously erotic poses—openly attracted a wide audience, partly the result of a more tolerant moral climate near the end of the First World War, but also because of the artist’s more naturalistic treatment of his subjects. The nervously subjective line of the artist’s early style had yielded to a simpler, more classical and volumetric rendering of the figure, a pictorial trend that was also observable in the contemporary figurative work of Picasso in Paris and would soon spread throughout Europe as a post-war revival of neo-classicism.
“Over the course of 1915,” writes Jane Kallir, “the increasingly naturalistic line will hew ever closer to the shape of the subject, as the element of graphic stylization progressively recedes. This development yields smoother, cleaner contours... A very soft pencil line (sometimes mimicking charcoal) gives the lines new strength and sensuality. The bold, Fauvistic coloring evident since 1913 is replaced by a more restrained, less expressive palette that conforms to the appearance of the subject at hand . . . Short dry strokes of gouache caress and mold the flesh; drapery, translucent from mid-1914 through early 1915, gradually becomes denser, reverting to the blocks of solid colors that Schiele had previously favored (J. Kallir, P.290; Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague).

The result is more intimate portrait, far less overt than his earlier work, but nonetheless still containing the open sexuality for which his work was becoming known. After years of struggling for recognition and sales, Schiele suddenly achieved well-deserved success as the First World War ground to its conclusion in 1918. In response to the harsh reality of news from the front and shortages at home, the Viennese appeared 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” (E. Schiele quoted in J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: Life and Work, New York, 2003, p. 217). Gustav Klimt, who had dominated the avant-garde for two decades, would die in February 1918, and Schiele was poised to become his natural successor. Schiele’s contributions to the 49th Secession exhibition, which opened in March of 1918, 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 numerous new collectors to buy his drawings.

By this stage in his short career, Schiele’s sublime command over his materials required no help from the excessive gesture, distortion, or forced emphasis of his earlier work. Here, set against an empty background, Schiele’s soft crayon outline and assured and confident modeling magically bring to life an existential portrait of a female figure who seems born both to and from the page within which she is confined. This confidence is prevalent in the best of Schiele’s 1917 drawings and gouaches, especially the present work where the contorted pose of the figure seems to have been wrought by an inner nature seeking to outwardly express itself through its bodily form.

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