Art dealers speculating in the ‘highly controlled’ London secondary art market are wondering how on earth an original drawing by the renowned Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele ended up in the hands of Chiswick Auctions.
Update: The drawing sold for £81,250 including buyer’s premium
It went under the hammer on November 22. The well-documented 1908 pencil-on-paper sketch, capturing the artist’s older sister Melanie, is anticipated to fetch between £50,000-£70,000 ($62,025-$86,835) as part of the London firm’s sale titled “20th Century Art: Paintings and Original Works on Paper.”
Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918), recognised as a prolific draftsman, created an impressive body of work, averaging a daily drawing during his most active years. His early creations, emerging with his first exhibition in the Austrian town of Klosterneuburg in 1908, resonated with Gustav Klimt’s style and reflected influences from the Art Nouveau movement. Owing to the intensity and explicit sexuality depicted in his paintings, including provocative nude self-portraits, Schiele earned the reputation of being the enfant terrible of the Vienna Secession. Simultaneously, he made acknowledgment as Gustav Klimt’s rightful successor, owing to his undeniable talent.
Gustav Klimt, a mentor to emerging artists, took a keen interest in Schiele’s work, acquiring his drawings, facilitating exchanges with his pieces, arranging modelling opportunities, and introducing him to potential patrons. Additionally, Klimt introduced Schiele to the Wiener Werkstatte, the Vienna Arts & Crafts workshop linked with the Secession.
The auction’s spotlight will shine on the tender and elegant drawing of Melanie Schiele Schuster, meticulously documented and included in the artist’s comprehensive catalogue raisonné. Stamped with Schiele’s estate mark and accompanied by an inscription from Rudolf Leopold, the artwork was formerly part of the collection of Norbert Gradisch, the sitter’s nephew and heir.
The drawing was exhibited in 1975 at Fischer Fine Art in London, founded by Austria-born dealers Harry and Wolfgang Georg Fischer. The Fischers were staunch supporters of Schiele’s legacy and had organised his inaugural solo exhibition in 1964 at Marlborough Fine Art in London.
This extraordinary artwork also finds distinction in literature, featured in the 1998 Jane Kallir reference book “Egon Schiele: The Complete Works.”
Recognising the historical significance of this rare offering from one of Austria’s most celebrated artists, it is expected to sell for much more than the lowball estimate allocated by Chiswick Auctions given the transparency of the internet.
Egon Schiele: A Visionary Force in Austrian Expressionism
Egon Schiele, born on June 12, 1890, in Tulln an der Donau, Austria, emerged as a pivotal figure in Expressionist art during the early 20th century. His tragically short life, spanning only 28 years, misrepresented his profound impact on the art world, leaving an indelible mark on the trajectory of modern art.
Schiele’s artistic journey began with formal training at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, where he developed a distinctive style that would later set him apart from his contemporaries. Early in his career, Schiele’s work drew parallels with the Symbolist influences of Gustav Klimt, an established figure in the Vienna Secession movement. However, Schiele’s artistic evolution led him to forge a unique path characterised by intensified emotional expression and a daring exploration of the human form.
Known for his prolific output, Schiele created extensive work, often producing a drawing a day during his most active years. His oeuvre encompassed a wide range of subjects, from portraits and landscapes to raw, unapologetic self-portraits that delved into the depths of human psychology. Schiele’s exploration of explicit sexuality, evident in his nude self-portraits, contributed to his reputation as a provocateur within the Vienna Secession, earning him the title of the movement’s enfant terrible.
His relationship with Gustav Klimt, a mentor and supporter, was crucial to Schiele’s artistic development. Klimt not only facilitated opportunities for Schiele but also introduced him to the Wiener Werkstatte, a critical creative and crafts workshop associated with the Secession.
Despite facing controversy and criticism for the explicit nature of his work, Schiele’s undeniable talent and unique artistic vision positioned him as the rightful successor to Gustav Klimt. His oeuvre navigated the complexities of human relationships, identity, and sexuality, creating a visual language that resonated with emotional intensity.
Tragically, Egon Schiele’s promising career was cut short by the Spanish flu pandemic, which claimed his life on October 31, 1918. Despite his brief time on this earth, Schiele’s legacy endures, and his contributions to Expressionism continue to captivate art enthusiasts worldwide. The raw emotion and daring honesty embedded in his works ensure that Egon Schiele remains an enduring force in the annals of art history.
Photo courtesy : Chiswick Auctions