Egon Schiele (Austrian, Tulln an der Donau, near Vienna 1890 - 1918 Vienna)
Girl with Black Hair, 1911
Signed and dated lower left: Schiele Egon 11
Watercolor and graphite pencil on paper
17 3/4 x 12 7/16 in. (45 x 31.6 cm)
Friends of Art Fund, 1958
This drawing is closely related to Schiele's Black Girl, a lost oil portrait depicting the same model and executed in the same year.1 Not only does the drawing serve as the sole memento of the painting, it is more subtle, lively, and immediate in its approach to the adolescent sitter.
The date (1911) inscribed on the Oberlin drawing indicates that Schiele must have created it during his year in Krumau, the Bohemian birthplace of his mother, from which he was evicted later in the year because of his "corrupting influence on the youth."2 By 1911, the twenty-one-year-old Schiele had already earned the respect of his older and better-known colleague, Gustav Klimt, whose own often controversial works were widely exhibited.
While it may have functioned as a preparatory study for the lost painting, the Oberlin Girl with Black Hair is a completed drawing, rather than a sketch. Both the drawing and the painting depict the same young woman in an identical pose, seated and turned to the left. In the painting, however, the subject is fully clad with only her knees bared, whereas in the drawing, she is seminude. While the painting focuses on dark, blocklike masses of clothing, the use of graphite set off by dark watercolor in the drawing makes the girl's face appear younger and her body more vulnerable.
The drawing manifests a nervous, yet sure and subtle handling of line, which caresses the contours of the upper body. The highlighting of the lips and nipples in pink and deep red draws attention to these body parts. The pale and fragile nudity of the girl is heightened by the dark clothing gathered on her lap, the thick, dark curls framing her face, and the unpainted background.
Schiele often used such contrasts to focus on the body and the flesh, in this case calling attention to the girl's small breasts, long and slender arms, and arresting face. Unlike many of his other drawings of nudes in sexualized poses, however, Schiele here pays equal attention to the sitter's visage, inviting the viewer's gaze to oscillate between the finely detailed face and body. The girl's serious expression, her averted, tired gaze projected from darkly shaded eyes beneath half-closed lids, and the modesty of the seminude pose render her disquietingly vulnerable and enigmatic rather than provocative.
Schiele was born on 12 June 1890 in Tulln an der Donau, near Vienna. His talent for drawing manifested itself early: he studied with Christian Griebenkerl (1839-1916) at the traditional Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna from 1905 until 1908, during which time he also painted small landscapes indebted to the Vienna Secession. In 1907 he met Gustav Klimt, who became a close, lifelong friend and a strong influence on Schiele's art. In 1909 Schiele left the Akademie and also exhibited four paintings at the Kunstschau, the first independent exhibition of modern art in Vienna, which also included works by Kokoschka, Klimt, and van Gogh. In the same year Schiele was among the founders of the Neukunstgruppe in Vienna. Drawing mostly proletarian girls and prostitutes, in 1910 he developed a distinctive type of psychological Expressionist portrait, incorporating gaunt figures in often tortuous poses, silhouetted against stark backgrounds. A nervous, elegant line characterizes his drawings and paintings.
In 1911, Schiele moved briefly to Krumau, his mother's birthplace in Bohemia, where he created many visionary cityscapes, but was forced to leave during the summer because of local disapproval of his unorthodox lifestyle. He moved to Neulengbach, near Vienna, but in April 1912 was arrested for creating "pornographic" pictures of nude schoolgirls, and was imprisoned for twenty-four days.3
In 1913 Schiele collaborated on the magazine Die Aktion, which in 1916 devoted an entire issue to his work. Numerous exhibitions followed in Munich, Vienna, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Berlin. In 1915 Schiele married Edith Harms. Although drafted into the Austrian army and sent to Prague, he was declared unfit for military service in 1916 and assigned first to a camp in Muehling, then, in 1917, to an Army Museum in Vienna. In 1918 Schiele had his first comprehensive one-man show at the forty-ninth exhibition of the Vienna Secession and at the Kunsthaus in Zurich. On 28 October, Schiele's pregnant wife died during an influenza epidemic, which also claimed the artist on 31 October 1918.
Kallir, Jane. Egon Schiele: The Complete Works. New York, 1990.
Werkner, Patrick, ed. Egon Schiele: Art, Sexuality and Viennese Modernism. Palo Alto, Calif., 1994.
With Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern (1956)
With Galerie St. Etienne, New York (1957), from whom purchased in 1958
Bern, Gutekunst & Klipstein, 1956. Egon Schiele: Bilder, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Graphik . 8 September - 6 October. Cat. no. 14.
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, 1957. Egon Schiele: Watercolors and Drawings. 21 January - 23 February. Cat. no. 6.
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, 1960. Egon Schiele. 6 October - 6 November (also shown at New York, Galerie St. Etienne; Louisville, Ky., J. B. Speed Art Museum; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute; and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts). Cat. no. 21.
Kenwood, London County Council, 1962. An American University Collection: Works of Art from the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio. 3 May - 30 October. Cat. no. 49.
Berkeley, University Art Museum, University of California, 1963. Viennese Expressionism 1910-1924. 5 February - 10 March. Cat. no. 40.
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, 1965. Egon Schiele (1890-1918). February - April. Cat. no. 26.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
Darmstadt, Institut Mathildenhöhe, 1967. 2. Internationale der Zeichnung. 16 July - 9 September. Cat. no. 30.
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, 1980. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele. 11 November - 27 December. Cat. no. 29.
Vienna, Historisches Museum, 1986. Otto Kallir-Nirenstein: Ein Wegbereiter österreichischer Kunst. 20 February - 27 April. Cat. no. 160.
Soby, James Thrall. "Two Masters of Expressionism." The Saturday Review 40, no. 9 (2 March 1957), pp. 28-29.
Werner, Alfred. "Schiele and Austrian Expressionism." Arts Magazine 35, no. 1 (October 1960), pp. 46-51.
Mitsch, Erwin. Egon Schiele 1890-1918. Salzburg, 1974, p. 26, pl. 20.
Kallir, Jane. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele. New York, 1980, pl. 31.
Malafarina, Gianfranco. L'Opera di Egon Schiele. Milan, 1982, cat. no. D 41.
Kallir, Jane. Egon Schiele: The Complete Works. New York, 1990, p. 106, ill. 52, D. 861.
Wilson, Simon. Egon Schiele. London, 1993, p. 41, pl. 34.
Drawn in soft pencil on sturdy brown paper, Black Girl is framed with generally dark watercolor washes and accented with touches of pinkish red, blue-green, and dark red. The paper support contains lignin and is thus inherently acidic. The overall darkening and discolorations of the paper have diminished the intensity and contrast of the colored media, which may have also faded somewhat. Apart from the reinforcement of a crease on the top right verso with silk crepaline (a very thin, open-weave, gauzy fabric), the paper is in relatively good condition and quite strong, although somewhat brittle.
1. See Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works (New York, 1990), p. 302, cat. no. 200.
2. Apparently the sensibilities of the villagers were offended when Schiele had his girlfriend Qally (Valeric) Neuzil, a minor, pose nude for him in his garden, which was not secluded enough to be sheltered from public view. See Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works(New York, 1990), p. 111; and Wolfgang G. Fischer, Egon Schiele 1890-1918: Pantomimen der Lust Visionen der Sterblichkeit (Cologne, 1994), pp. 192-93.
3. Schiele's illustrated diary of this period in jail was published posthumously in 1922 in Carl Konegen, ed., Egon Schiele im Gefängnis: Aufzeichnungen und Zeichnungen (Vienna, 1922); trans. Alessandra Comini, Schiele in Prison (London 1974).