“I am glad there are so few who can recognize art. That is constant proof of its divine nature.1”
Egon Schiele’s artistic career was brief and intense. In the twelve years between attending art school at age 16 and his untimely death at age 28, the artist was enormously productive, and he left behind a vast oeuvre of over three hundred oil paintings and several thousand works on paper. Along with Oskar Kokoschka, Schiele is indisputably one of the leading figures of Austrian Expressionism. Although he also produced some remarkable renderings of landscape, his preferred and by far most powerful subject was the human figure. Portraits and self-portraits make out about a third of Schiele’s works in oil and play an even larger role in his drawings and watercolours. In his sensuous sketches of men, women and children – for the most part shown in various stages of undress − Schiele not only exposed his sitters’ fragile bodies, but also their anxious souls. His works are extremely intimate, laying bare his subject’s vulnerability and delicate emotional condition. Schiele’s distinctive drawing style, using swift, sharp lines and marks, capture the energy of his models.
The present work shows a standing woman, wearing a slip, stockings and a cap on her curly hair that is cropped at chin length. She languidly gazes at the viewer, while her hands nestle with the seam of her undergarment. The drawing comes from the estate of Antal Post de Bekessy (1943-2015), a descendant of an elegant American family, whose name plays an important role in the history of the United States. His grandmother Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973), owner of the Postum Cereal Company (the later General Foods Corporation), was considered the wealthiest woman in the United States of her time. Her daughter Eleanor, Antal’s mother, settled in Paris after WWII, residing in an elegant city mansion and an 18th century chateau on the shores of Seine. Both mother and daughter assembled notable art collections.
Antal Post de Bekessy, who commuted between his residence in France and home in New-York, was an avid collector like his mother and grandmother, and was honoured by the French Ministry of Culture for his efforts in preserving French art and architecture. Honouring the Austro-Hungarian ancestry of his father, the writer and newspaper publisher Janos de Bekessy (better known under the pseudonym Hans Habe), Antal Post de Bekessy had a special interest in the artists of the Viennese Secession, and particularly admired the work of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
1 Egon Schiele in a letter from to Leopold Czihaczek, 1 September 1911 , quoted in: Jane Kallir, “Patronage and Portraiture in the World of Egon Schiele.”, Egon Schiele Portraits, ed. Alessandra Comini, Prestel, Munich , London, New York 2014, p. 65-82