Restored Masterpieces: Egon Schiele’s Pioneering Art

Christie’s recently unveiled six significant works on paper by the eminent artist Egon Schiele, which have been recently restituted to the rightful heirs of Viennese cabaret and film star, Fritz Grünbaum.

These remarkable pieces are scheduled for auction during Marquee Week in November, shining a spotlight on Schiele’s artistic journey during the pivotal years from 1910 to 1915.

This collection, which once numbered in the hundreds, was lovingly curated by Fritz Grünbaum in the early 20th century but tragically lost when Austria fell under the shadow of the Nazi regime in the late 1930s. The Grünbaum family, in collaboration with Christie’s, presents this sale as an opportunity to celebrate the life, art, and legacy of Fritz Grünbaum.

A Journey Through Egon Schiele’s Artistry

Under the discerning gaze of Vanessa Fusco, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York, these six restituted works offer a unique opportunity to witness the artistic evolution of one of the 20th century’s most provocative artists. Schiele, emerging from the influence of his mentor Gustav Klimt in 1910, ushered in his own distinctive Expressionist style, a vision beautifully captured in the three pieces from that very year. The skillfully rendered 1915 portrait of his wife, Edith, is a testament to Schiele’s unyielding commitment to exploring the depths of the human experience.

Egon Schiele was renowned for his introspective approach, often turning his artistic gaze inward. Notably, the auction will feature two psychologically complex self-portraits from Schiele’s oeuvre, where he delves into the formal language of the body as a material reflection of the inner soul. These self-portraits provide a unique window into the artist’s self-exploration, inviting viewers to journey through the complexities of his own psyche.

A Landmark Moment in Restitution

In the words of Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas, the return of the Grünbaum Schieles marks a historic milestone in the ongoing process of restitution. It sheds light on the grim reality of forced sales and duress under the Nazi occupation of Europe, dispelling the myth that individuals parted with their possessions willingly.

Porter emphasizes that such transactions were nothing less than thefts, akin to looting and seizures. He underscores the importance of exploring the history of Aryanization and economic crimes as a means to comprehend the stories behind the objects we sell and the lives of those who owned them.

Christie’s takes immense pride in its restitution efforts and boasts the most extensive and experienced Restitution team among international auction houses. With branches in New York, London, Berlin, Brussels, and Vienna, Christie’s researchers bring a wealth of expertise, with a combined century of experience in Nazi-era provenance research. Their commitment to unearthing and returning art to its rightful owners exemplifies the auction house’s dedication to this important field.

In conclusion, the forthcoming auction of Egon Schiele’s works offers more than an opportunity to acquire exceptional art. It’s a celebration of restitution, a tribute to the resilience of those who seek justice, and an exploration of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic artistic minds.

Egon Schiele’s masterpieces are not just brushstrokes on paper; they are a testament to the enduring spirit of art and the indomitable will to right historical wrongs.

Images: Christie’s

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