While living in Vienna from 1921 to 1923, Scofield Thayer presumably bought many, or all, of the thirty drawings in his collection by the Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, whose work was virtually unknown in the United States at the time.
Schiele's career was short, intense, and amazingly productive. Before succumbing to influenza in 1918 at the age of twenty-eight, he created more than three hundred oil paintings and several thousand works on paper. The human figure provided Schiele with his most potent subject matter for both paintings and drawings.
The psychological intensity of Schiele's self-portraits is rarely encountered in his numerous studies of young women — many nude or provocatively dressed — who are treated in a detached manner as objects for formal analysis. Often isolated on a page, without any reference to their surroundings, these figures are exquisite studies in line, composition, and gesture. This portrait of a seated woman viewed from behind is expressive even though her face is hidden. The model was likely Schiele's wife, Edith Harms, then twenty-four, whom he married in 1915 and who died of influenza only three days before he did. Only partially dressed but with her strawberry-blond hair carefully coiffed, the figure wears a bright blue striped jacket over a white striped shirt — the attire of a respectable lady. Her lower body, however, is clad in the garments in which Schiele usually depicted prostitutes — a white lace slip and dark stockings. The marked difference between the two parts of her costume seems to reflect the artist's own ambivalent feelings about his wife, who is variously shown in his art as a cold virgin or a passionate lover.
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Medium:Watercolor, opaque watercolor, and graphite on paper
Dimensions:18 1/8 x 11 3/4 in. (46.4 x 29.8 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right, in graphite): EGON / SCHIELE / 1917
[Kunstverlag Wolfrum, Vienna, until 1921; sold on October 30, 1921, for Kr 7,000, to Thayer]; Scofield Thayer, Vienna and New York (1921–d. 1982; on extended loan to the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Mass., as part of the Dial Collection, 1939–82; his bequest to MMA)
Worcester Art Museum. "The Dial and the Dial Collection," April 30–September 8, 1959, no. 206.
New York. Galerie St. Etienne. "Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection," May 2–28, 1960, no catalogue.
Worcester Art Museum. "The Dial Revisited," June 29–August 22, 1971, no catalogue.
Worcester Art Museum. "'The Dial': Arts and Letters in the 1920s," March 7–May 10, 1981, no. 130 (as "Seated Woman").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Egon Schiele," April 27–June 4, 1989, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Egon Schiele," March 27–July 29, 1990, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "60 Drawings: Recent Acquisitions," October 23, 1990–January 15, 1991, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings: Additions to the Collection," May 23–September 29, 1991, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection," July 3–October 7, 2018, no. 23.
Lisa M. Messinger in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1984–1985. New York, 1985, p. 50, ill. (color).
John Richardson. "Rediscovering an Early Modern Vision: The Dial Collection Recalls the Life and Times of Scofield Thayer." House and Garden 159, no. 2 (February 1987), p. 160, ill. (color).
Jane Kallir. Egon Schiele. The Complete Works Including a Biography and Catalogue Raisonné. Expanded edition (1st ed., 1990). New York, 1998, p. 580, no. D.1985, ill.
Klaus Albrecht Schröder. Egon Schiele. Ed. Klaus Albrecht Schröder. Exh. cat., Albertina. Vienna, 2005, pp. 354, 410, no. 200, ill. p. 355 (color).
Sabine Rewald inObsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2018, pp. 60, 126, no. 23, ill. p. 73 (color).
Max Hollein. Modern and Contemporary Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2019, ill. p. 44 (color).
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