Mutter und Kind, of 1910, marks a decisive turning point in Egon Schiele's artistic and personal development. It was in this year that the young artist would not only achieve a stylistic breakthrough in his art, but would also establish the universally compelling allegory of Mother and Child as an enduring theme in his work. Inspired in part by the monumental paintings of his mentor, Gustav Klimt, Mutter und Kind is one of Schiele's earliest studies on the subject that, he believed, stood as a metaphor for the cycle of birth, life and death.
For centuries, artists have treated the theme of Mother and Child as idealised images of an archetype of womanhood, one that symbolizes divine creation and the joyous fecundity of nature. Similarly, Schiele saw the human body as a physical materialisation of a mystical, unseen, but nonetheless dynamic life force, and he pursued the curiosities and extremes of human gesture, expression and emotion, almost as if he were attempting to document the range and breadth of its manifestation. But Schiele's feelings toward motherhood were exceedingly complex, and for him, sexual impulse and the creation of life was haunted by its ghostly double, death. Schiele's family history seems to have had a profound impact on the nature of this subject matter, for his childhood was marred by the personal risk involved with the act of procreation; his father had succumbed to a sexually transmitted disease after years of insanity, and four of his siblings had died as a result of the disease. As a consequence, Schiele developed an almost pathological interest in sexuality, endowing his images with an intensely felt significance.
The nude had not featured significantly in Schiele's work prior to 1910, but from this year onwards it would play a central role in his art, indicating his own burgeoning sexual maturation. In May, one of Schiele's girlfriends, evidently pregnant, had been admitted at the clinic of the gynecologist, Dr. Erwin von Graff, presumably for an abortion. Schiele is known to have exchanged drawings and a painting with Dr. von Graff and in turn, the doctor provided the artist access to sketch his patients. Schiele initially created impersonal studies of the pregnant female form and newborn babies, and it was only toward the end of the year that women began to appear in his studies together with their infants.
Although Schiele believed, much like his elder influences Klimt and Edvard Munch, that sexuality was the primal force of all existence, he did not necessarily associate it with a sense of joy, and there is a palpable sense of anxiety evident in his images of mothers and children. This angst is somewhat restrained in Mutter und Kind, but is nonetheless insinuated in the awkward figure arrangement. By depicting the mother-figure turning away from the infant, in what appears an act of rejection or withdrawal, Schiele seems to suggest the still clinging child is essentially alone in the world. The recumbent child placed behind the mother reappeared in the painting Mutter mit zwei Säuglingen of 1910, which was lost in the Second World War. Schiele's subsequent paintings based on maternal subjects would more explicitly affirm his belief that the production of life is inextricably bound with death by depicting the mother as drained of youthful vitality. Schiele shows these women as life giving vessels who, in fulfilling their natural function serve only to nurture the new life they have created, or as deceased whilst the child is still in the womb. Unlike these later paintings, the sexual allure of the model in Mutter und Kind is maintained. Indeed, it is enhanced by her knowing, backwards glance, a partially visible areola and the tilt of her hip, which draws attention to the void between her thighs, which hints at the mysterious origins of life. The unidentified dark haired model, who was most likely an adolescent prostitute from the streets of Vienna, reoccurs in numerous watercolours and drawings of Schiele's at this time, and the erotic charge in this and other studies reveal an emotional engagement, that suggests she was quite likely his lover.
Painted in his first full year of artistic independence from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Mutter und Kind displays a new emphasis on the expressive capabilities of the contour and brushwork. Filling the framework of his febrile lines with thin washes of colour, Schiele uses his brush to create mass, texture and a sense of animation. Though prostrate, the young girl in is depicted vertically. This was a common device of Schiele's, who often liked to draw his models from above, working from a steep ladder placed at their feet. Surrounding the pair with a highlight of white gouache was also a device common to Schiele's art in 1910, and was used by him as a way of isolating his figures on the page, rendering them as more complete, individual and distinct. This shimmering electric current of light also adds the sense of a spiritual dimension to his work, implying a radiating inner energy and vitality that echoes the mysterious glowing life force believed by Theosophists and spiritualists at the time to be discernable to trained and perceptive seers.
Far from an idealized picture of beauty or a conception of maternal bliss, Mutter und Kind represents the emergence of two concurrent threads in Schiele's art, that of Eros and Thanatos - the sexual drive and the disintegrating drive towards death. With its suggestion of sexual promise and its allusion to the mystical cycle of tragedy and regeneration in life, the gouache is a moving distillation of Schiele's search for life's existential truths.
Mutter und Kind
Gouache, watercolour and pencil on paper
SOLD TO BENEFIT THE NEUE GALERIE NEW YORK
Signed with the initial and dated 'S.10.' (lower right)
Drawings & Watercolors
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, February - April 1965, no. 7.
Los Angeles, Felix Landau Gallery, Egon Schiele (1890-1918): Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, January - February 1967, no. 16 (illustrated).
Vienna, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Gustav Klimt - Egon Schiele: Zum Gedächtnis ihres Todes vor 50 Jahren, April - June 1968, no. 151 (illustrated).
Des Moines, Art Center, Egon Schiele and the Human Form: Drawings and Watercolors, September - October 1971, no. 9 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Columbus, Gallery of Fine Arts, November - December 1971 and Chicago, Art Institute, January - February 1972.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Egon Schiele, February - March 1975, no. 118 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Octave Negru, Egon Schiele: Dessins et Aquarelles, February - April 1976, no. 23 (illustrated).
Tokyo, The Seibu Museum of Art, Egon Schiele, April - June 1979, no. 18 (illustrated).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Egon Schiele: An Exhibition of Watercolours and Drawings, June - August 1979, no. 17 (illustrated). Vienna, Historisches Museum der Stadt, Egon Schiele: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, September - November 1981, no. 18 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt, November 1981 - January 1982; Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Spring 1982 and Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, April - June 1982.
Vienna, Akademie der bildenden Künste, Egon Schiele, vom Schüler zum Meister: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle 1906-1918, January - March 1984, no. 17; this exhibition later travelled to Milan, Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, March - May 1984 (illustrated); Palermo, Villa Zito, February - April 1985; Tel Aviv, Museum, April - May 1985; Hamburg, Kunsthalle, May - July 1985; Salzburg, Rupertinum, July - September 1985; Graz, Schloss Plankenwirth, October - November 1985; Innsbruck, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, January - February 1986; Bottrop, Josef Albers Museum, February - April 1986; Nuremberg, Kunsthalle, April - June 1986; Capri, Certosa di San Giacomo, July - September 1986 and Halbturn, Schloss Halbturn, May - August 1987.
Paris, Hôtel de Ville, Salle Saint-Jean, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele: Dessins et Aquarelles, June - August 1984, no. 70 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Kaiserslautern, Pfalzgalerie, August - October 1984; Bolzano, Museo Civico, October - December 1984 and Turin, Palazzo Reale, December 1984 - February 1985.
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Vienne 1880-1938: L'Apocalypse Joyeuse, February - May 1986 (illustrated p. 423).
New York, Serge Sabarsky Gallery, Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Drawings and Watercolors, Summer 1986, no. 11.
Charleroi, Palais de Beaux Arts, Egon Schiele, September - December 1987, no. 30 (illustrated).
Rosenheim, Städtische Galerie Rosenheim, Egon Schiele: 100 Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, May - June 1988, no. 17; this exhibition later travelled to Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, June - August 1988; Herford, Kunstverein im Daniel-Pöppelmann-Haus, September - October 1988; Leverkusen, Erholungshaus der Bayer A.G., October - November 1988; Hoechst/Frankfurt, Jahrhunderthalle, November 1988 - January 1989; Bari, Castello Svevo, January - March 1989; Genoa, Museo Villa Croce, April - June 1989; Ferrara, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea di Palazzo Massari; Roslyn, Nassau County Museum of Art, January - April 1990; Linz, Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum, September - December 1990; Milan, Palazzo della Permanente, May - June 1991, no. 11; Bietigheim-Bissingen, Städtische Galerie, July - September 1991; Berlin, Käthe-Kollwitzs-Museum, October 1991 - March 1992; Passau, Museum moderner Kunst, March - May 1992; Ulm, Museum, June - August 1992; Prague, Palais Wallenstein, October - November 1992; Paris, Musée-Galerie de la Seita, December 1992 - February 1993; Vienna, BAWAG Foundation, March - May 1993; Aix-en-Provence, Musée Granet, June - August 1993, no. 22; Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, October - December 1993, no. 22 and Lisbon, Culturgest, December - February 1994.
Washington D.C., Egon Schiele, February - April 1994, no. 67 (illustrated p. 141); this exhibition later travelled to Indianapolis, Museum of Art, May - August 1994 and San Diego, Museum of Art, August - October 1994.
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Egon Schiele, February - May 1995, no. 50.
Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, May - August 1995, no. 137.
Bad Frankenhausen, Panorama Museum, Egon Schiele: 100 Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, November - February 1996, no. 24; this exhibition later travelled to New York, The Serge Sabarsky Foundation, June 1996; Klagenfurt, Städtische Galerie Klagenfurt, July - September 1996; Cracow, International Culture Centre, December 1996 - January 1997 and Llubljana, Cankarjev Dom, Fine Art Gallery, April - June 1997.
New York, Neue Galerie, New Worlds: German and Austrian Art, 1890-1930, October 2004 - February 2005.
New York, Neue Galerie, Egon Schiele: The Ronald S. Lauder and Serge Sabarsky Collections, October 2005 - February 2006, no. D34 (illustrated p. 216).
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
21¾ x 14 3/8 in. (55.4 x 36.5 cm.)
W. Koschatzky, Egon Schiele: Aquarelle und Zeichnungen, Salzburg, 1968 (illustrated pl. 5).
E. Mitsch, Egon Schiele: Drawings and Watercolours, Salzburg, 1969, no. 17, p. 116 (illustrated p. 37).
'Egon Schiele', in Mizue, September 1977, no. 870, p. 10.
S. Sabarski, Egon Schiele. Disegni Erotici, Milan, 1981 (illustrated pl. 7).
H. Haider (ed.), Ich, Serge Sabarsky, Vienna, 1997 (illustrated p. 97).
J. Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, London, 1998, no. 396 (illustrated p. 393).
Private collection, Frankfurt am Main.
Anonymous sale, Lempertz, Cologne, 11 June 1963, lot 629.
Serge Sabarsky, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, by whom acquired from the estate of the above in 2003.
Gift from the above to the present owner.