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Classical Modernism @

ARTIST: Gustav Klimt
TITLE: Portrait of a Lady
YEAR: 1917
TECHNIQUE: Pencil on paper
SIZE: 56,9 x 37,3 cm (22.4 x 14.7 inch)

For Klimt, at every stage of his development as a draughtsman, the largely autonomous head-and-shoulders portrait was among his most favoured motifs. It was in particular during the last years of his career that he produced a great diversity of these calm and sovereign renderings, which could hardly differ more from the ecstasy of his erotic sheets. It may be a surprise to many to realise that Klimt, in his last years, was producing drawings of a marked economy of linear concentration alongside those characterised by a dense wild tangle of lines. A radical example of this “other side”, which on occasion recalls the work of Matisse or Picasso, is to be found in the present anonymous portrait of a young woman. As Alice Strobl observed, this model is close in appearance to the similarly anonymous sitter seen in the unfinished Portrait of a Lady (1917, Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz). In the present drawing Klimt’s treatment of the only seemingly simple lines is by no means uncomplicated. With a thin pencil he initially outlines the basic contours of the face, the shoulders and the costume. By this means he plots the subtle spatial tension between the frontally viewed face and the slightly turned upper body with its naked shoulder revealed by the slight slippage of the dress. The delicate linear framework is sensually caressed by a broader, more powerful pencil, giving rise to slight formal discrepancies. The...
<i>GUSTAV KLIMT, PORTRAIT OF A LADY</i><span>Read</span>
ARTIST: Egon Schiele
TITEL: Standing Woman Covering Face with Both Hands
YEAR: 1911
TECHNIQUE: Gouache watercolor pencil o.p.
SIZE: 44,8 x 31,4 cm (17.6 x 12.4 inch)
ADDITIONAL INFO: Signed and dated, center right

In terms of technique, this image is chiefly representative of the date it bears through Schiele’s eager use of wet-on-wet watercolour (black diluting to grey, red muddying to brown). His initial pencilled outlines now set the tone only as a palisade of long, raised fingers (their nails so emphatic we at first mistake one or two for eyes). His favoured white gouache “body halo” is here present only in fragments: to reinforce the angularity of a shoulder or an elbow, the verticality of the right contour, from neck to knee. The figure as a whole is most formally striking in the assertiveness with which its dark column bisects the pale
brown upright oblong, energised through its merest hint at a diagonal. But its more persistent appeal is to our spontaneous “fellow feeling”. We intuit the physical sensation of a body less practically “clothed” than protectively “wrapped”. And we all but conspire in the paradox of the subject’s sudden wish, implicit in her gesture, to evade the artist’s gaze, and hence our own.
- Elizabeth Clegg

“Egon Schiele,” in Mizue, #870, September 1977, S. 9. - Bisanz/Sabarsky, Egon Schiele. Zeichnungen und Aquarelle,
Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, 1981, p. 53, illus. 47. - Nassau County Museum of Art, Serge Sabarsky, Egon Schiele
1890-1918, A Centennial...
ARTIST: Egon Schiele
TITLE: Reclining Female Nude with Raised Legs
YEAR: 1918
TECHNIQUE: Black crayon on paper
SIZE: 29,5 x 45,5 cm (11.6 x 17.9 inch)
ADDITIONAL INFO: Signed and dated at lower right

The drawings Schiele produced in 1918 were, like those of the previous year, predominantly of the nude and semi-nude female studio model. He continued to make regular use of charcoal and, above all (as in the present sheet) of black crayon; but he now only rarely resorted to gouache or watercolour. The works on paper of what were to be the last ten months of his career are, at their best, a testament to his mastery of the continuous, form-sculpting line.
Schiele’s work from the model during 1918 is also notable for the far greater proportion of the resulting drawings – well over 75 per cent – in which the figure is entirely naked.1 (This may well reflect a continuing preoccupation with his series of allegorical paintings, in which none of the figures is clothed.) But the remainder are, in turn, themselves remarkable for examples from two extremes. In some, including the present sheet, the garments are so rendered as to become effectively “invisible”. In others, the clothing is so obtrusive as to heighten our surprise at what is nonetheless revealed: this is the function of the overcoat and voluminous skirt worn by the squatting model in one of the most striking images of this period (see fig. Kallir, cat. rais. no. D 2418). Much was sacrificed at this time to the imperatives and exigencies of continuous production to satisfy...
ARTIST: Oskar Kokoschka
TITLE: Young Girl in a Blue Coat
YEAR: 1907
TECHNIQUE: Pencil watercolour on paper
SIZE: 45,4 x 31,6 cm (17.9 x 12.4 inch)
ADDITIONAL INFO: Signed with a monogram (lower right)

In 1906, at the age of twenty, Oskar Kokoschka became a student at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) in Vienna, where he attended the class taught by Otto Czeschka. From the beginning he focused on life drawing, of both the nude and of the figure in motion. By the summer semester of 1907 he had been granted sole use of a studio. There, as he was later to record (Oskar Kokoschka, Mein Leben, Munich 1971, pp. 50–51; cited here from Eng. trans., My Life, London 1974, p. 19), he “got the children of a circus family, who used to live by modelling in the winter when there was no other work, to play and leap around [so that he could capture in] lightning studies [. . . ] the various movements and twists of the body in action [. . . ]”. It was also in 1907 that the Viennese Galerie Miethke staged an exhibition of work by Paul Gauguin. As demonstrated by the present sheet, the figure’s somewhat exotic air and the clothing loosely and only partially covering the body (both characteristic of Gauguin) were to feature in Kokoschka’s own drawings. Here, however, the coat or cloak thrown casually over the shoulder is supplied with a number of modish details: its double collar and its manifestly fashionable cut. On account, however, of its planar abstraction and its unified blue colouring, the garment, which here seems...
ARTIST: Gustav Klimt
TITLE: Portrait of a young woman in a tall hat
YEAR: around 1916
TECHNIQUE: Pencil on paper
SIZE: 56 x 37,3 mm (22 x 14.7 inch)
ADDITIONAL INFO: Strobl, cat. rais. no. 2670

Autonomous half-length portraits date from every period of Klimt’s career as a draughtsman. From the point, in the mid-1890s, where he made a definitive stylistic shift from Historicism to Symbolism, Klimt was above all concerned, in such drawings of usually anonymous models, with exploring particular facial types, emotional values, and psychological states: his autonomous half-length portraits became, in effect, metaphors for the mystery of woman. In 1904 Klimt, as a draughtsman, made what appears to have been a rather sudden shift from the use of wrapping paper and black chalk to the very different combination of Japanese paper and pencil. This decisive change was to be immediately evident both in the number and in the quality of the autonomous halflength female portraits he produced over the following years.
Architectonic rigour is offset by an air of extreme lightness in the portrait of the almost imperceptibly smiling woman in a tall hat. This figure is so well anchored within the picture plane as to issue in an intriguing dialectic between tangible proximity and mysterious distance.
- Marian Bisanz-Prakken

Alice Strobl, Gustav Klimt. Die Zeichnungen. III: 1912 - 1918, Verlag Galerie Welz, Salzburg 1984, cat.rais.no. 2670. - Marian Bisanz-Prakken, Gustav Klimt. Drawings. Wienerroither & Kohlbacher (Edt.), Vienna, 2018,...