Christie’s Unveils Rare Works from the Grünbaum Collection

Christie’s, the esteemed auction house synonymous with the pinnacle of art curation and sales, is poised to unveil a pair of exceptional works by the legendary Austrian artist, Egon Schiele, during its much-anticipated 20th Century Evening Sale scheduled for May 16, 2024.

These pieces, which represent a convergence of artistic brilliance and historical significance, offer a profound glimpse into the tumultuous era of early 20th-century Europe.

At the heart of this auction lie two exquisite creations: “Stehender Akt mit Draperietuch” (Standing Nude With Drapery) and “Schwarzes Mädchen” (Black Girl or Girl in Black).

Crafted with meticulous precision in 1911, these artworks serve as timeless testaments to Schiele’s unparalleled talent and innovative spirit. Each stroke of gouache, watercolour, and pencil on paper breathes life into the figures, capturing the essence of their subjects with an intensity that transcends time.

Fritz Grünbaum: A Tragic Tale of Loss and Legacy

The narrative surrounding these remarkable watercolours is inexorably intertwined with the tragic fate of Fritz Grünbaum, a connoisseur of the arts whose passion for collecting rivalled his devotion to his homeland.

Grünbaum’s collection, a treasure trove of artistic expression, was meticulously assembled in the vibrant cultural hub of Vienna during the early 20th century. However, the shadow of impending doom loomed large as the spectre of Nazism cast its dark pall over Europe.

As the Nazis descended upon Austria in the late 1930s, Grünbaum’s world was irrevocably shattered. His prized collection, a testament to human creativity and ingenuity, fell victim to the ravages of war and oppression. Alongside his beloved artworks, Grünbaum himself became a casualty of history, torn from his home and thrust into the abyss of concentration camps, where his voice was silenced forever.

Christie’s Commitment to Restitution

In the wake of such tragedy, Christie’s stands as a beacon of hope and justice, committed to honouring the legacy of collectors like Fritz Grünbaum.

Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas, articulated the auction house’s unwavering dedication to the ongoing effort of returning looted art to its rightful heirs. This noble endeavour serves as a testament to Christie’s ethos of integrity and responsibility within the realm of art restoration and preservation.

Imogen Kerr, Co-Head of the 20th Century Evening Sale, provides invaluable insights into the artistic significance of these masterpieces. Kerr highlights how the works from 1911 mark a pivotal moment in Schiele’s career, representing a bold departure from convention and a fearless embrace of individuality. She eloquently describes the artworks as a testament to Schiele’s genius, capturing the essence of human emotion with a rawness and intensity that transcends the boundaries of time and space.

In “Stehender Akt mit Draperietuch,” Kerr delves deeper into the intricate nuances of Schiele’s artistic vision, painting a vivid picture of empowerment and vulnerability. Through her expert analysis, she invites viewers to contemplate the profound complexity of the human experience as conveyed through Schiele’s deft brushstrokes and subtle use of light and shadow.

Meanwhile, “Schwarzes Mädchen” serves as a poignant reminder of Schiele’s unparalleled ability to evoke emotion through his art. Kerr marvels at the delicate interplay of form and expression, noting how Schiele’s masterful technique imbues the subject with a sense of timeless beauty and poignancy.

A Legacy of Responsibility

In the realm of art restoration and provenance research, Christie’s stands as a paragon of excellence and integrity. With a dedicated team spanning multiple continents, the auction house has made Nazi-era provenance research a cornerstone of its operations.

By meticulously tracing the origins of each artwork, Christie’s seeks to shed light on the dark chapters of history while advocating for justice and restitution.

As the custodians of cultural heritage, Christie’s remains steadfast in its commitment to ethical practices and transparency. By leveraging its expertise and resources, the auction house aims to ensure that the voices of the past are not forgotten and that the legacy of collectors like Fritz Grünbaum endures for generations to come.


As the curtains rise on Christie’s 20th Century Evening Sale, the stage is set for a momentous occasion that transcends the boundaries of art and history. Through its unwavering commitment to restitution and ethical stewardship, Christie’s pays homage to the indomitable spirit of collectors like Fritz Grünbaum while reaffirming the enduring power of artistic expression.

In a world fraught with uncertainty, these masterpieces serve as beacons of hope and resilience, reminding us of the transformative power of human creativity in the face of adversity.

Images: Christie’s

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