Egon Schiele

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Egon Schiele
Portrait of the Artist's Sister Gerti
Graphite pencil and colored crayon on wove paper.
12 3/8 x 7 7/8 inches (31.3 x 20.1 cm)
Bequest of Fred Ebb.

Schiele was a prolific draftsman who at times created an average of a drawing a day. When he died at the age of twenty-eight during the 1918 influenza pandemic, he left behind about three thousand watercolors and drawings. Gustav Klimt was an important influence on Schiele, helping him to move away from the conventionality of his academic training. In Schiele's early drawings, often of female subjects, forms are defined by simple contour lines, with no shading and little articulation of volume. The pose and self-confidence of Schiele's models are also in keeping with Klimt's depictions of women. This drawing is a study for the second of two monumental portraits of his sister that Schiele painted in 1909. Gertrude Schiele (1894-1981), who was fifteen at the time of this portrait, was Schiele's favorite sister and frequently posed for him. In this preparatory drawing, he worked our Gerti's dramatic pose with her head turned away from the viewer and her left hand twisted at an angle to hold the mantel hanging from her shoulder. The geometric emphasis characteristic of Viennese Jugendstil is still evident here in the abundance of right angles in the hairdo, the blouse, and the position of the left hand, and even in the signature, which is enclosed within a rectangle. Gertrude's closed eyes relate to the Symbolist movement, in which closed eyes suggest dreams, inner visions, and a realm of feelings and sensations removed from the materialistic world.


Signed and dated at lower right, "Schiele".

Oddone Tomasi (1884-1929), Trento; Christian M. Nebehay, Vienna; Serge Sabarsky, New York; private collection, New York; from whom acquired by Fred Ebb, New York, in 1978.
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