Curator's Choice: June 2011

Curator's Choice
June 30, 2011

Egon Schiele (1890-1918)
Portrait of Gerti Schiele, 1909
Oil, silver, gold-bronze paint, and pencil on canvas
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and partial gift of the Lauder family, New York

This monumental canvas is the second portrait that Egon Schiele painted of his sister Gertrude, affectionately known as Gerti. She was one of his favorite models early in his career. She was only about fifteen years old at the time of this portrait (he was only nineteen himself) and yet he depicts her as if she is a mature woman, elegantly attired and seemingly lost in a dream. The ornamentation on her dress shows that he was still influenced by the turn-of-the-century Jugendstil movement and had not yet emerged as one of the leading talents of the Expressionist style. In fact, Schiele was even dubbed the "Silver Klimt" for his similiarity to the older master.

Schiele completed this work the same year that he and fellow students from Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts left the school and founded the Neukunstgruppe. In December of 1909, the group held their first exhibition at the Galerie Pisko, where Schiele met important collectors and critics.

Curator's Choice
June 30, 2011

Gustav Klimt (1868-1918)
Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907
Oil, silver, and gold on canvas
Neue Galerie New York. This acquisition made available in part through the generosity of the heirs of the Estates of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Gustav Klimt's 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is a masterpiece of his so-called "Golden Style." He was inspired in part by a 1903 trip to the Italian town of Ravenna, where he saw the Byzantine mosaics at the church of San Vitale. Klimt wrote his close friend and companion Emilie Flöge that they were of "unprecedented splendor."

Klimt labored over the portrait for seven years and created more than 100 sketches in the interim. There is an ambiguity in her pose and she remains an icon embellished wth layers of gold and silver leaf. The canvas is awash in various symbols, some amuletic, such as the Egyptian oudjat eyes set within pyramids. In addition, Klimt added her initials "A" and "B," as well as spirals, which are a reference to his interest in Japanese art. 

The portrait has been dubbed the Neue Galerie's Mona Lisa.