(Tulln 1890 - Vienna 1918)
Portrait of a Child (Anton Peschka, Jr.)
The upper left corner of the sheet previously torn and reattached.
Signed and dated EGON / SCHIELE / 1918 at the lower right.
381 x 283 mm. (15 x 11 1/8 in.)
The present sheet is one of only three known portrait drawings of Schiele’s young nephew to date from 1918. Of the other two drawings, likewise drawn in black crayon alone, one shows him seated on his mother’s lap, while in the other he is shown in much the same way as in this drawing, seated and facing forward. This is indeed how he appears in Schiele’s painting of 1918, which was left unfinished at the artist’s death in October of that year. In the painting, as in the present sheet and other drawings of the young Toni Peschka at the age of two or three, the child is depicted wearing a dress, which was not uncommon for small boys at that time.
In this intimate portrayal of his young nephew (who, like his father and uncle, was to become a painter and a student at the Akademie in Vienna), Schiele was able to capture something of the essence of childhood. n later years, Anton Peschka, Jr. would recall sitting for his uncle at Schiele’s studio on Hietzinger Hauptstrasse in Vienna, for which sessions his mother and the artist would always make precise appointments. He also remembered that whenever he became restless the artist would placate him with candy, and would sometimes also show him a toy steam train.
Of the drawings produced in the last year of the artist’s life, Jane Kallir was written; ‘Always the speedy worker, Schiele had finally found the perfect line. In 1917 and 1918 he was usually able to capture his subjects with a single, virtually unbroken sweep of his crayon. In his works on paper, he became more and more focused on the qualities of drawing as such, and therefore relatively few of his 1918 studies are colored. Instead he was increasingly interested in sculpting volume…Schiele had no need, as formerly, to redrawn or embellish faulty contours…he was in complete control, and in these drawings Schiele achieved an unprecedented degree of accuracy.’
The authenticity of this drawing, which is previously unpublished, has been confirmed by Jane Kallir.
In a brief artistic career that lasted just twelve years before his death from influenza in October 1918, at the age of just twenty-eight, Egon Schiele produced a few hundred paintings and nearly three thousand drawings and watercolours. It was not until the last year or so of his life, however, that he began to achieve a modest amount of financial success. Following the death of Gustav Klimt in February 1918 and the critical success of his one-man exhibition at the Vienna Secession the following month, Schiele could be said to have become the leading avant-garde artist in Vienna in the final months of the First World War.
It was at this time that his drawings began to display a distinct change in his approach to the depiction of the figure, with a new emphasis on line over colour. As Jane Kallir has written, ‘During the last years of his life, the pace of Schiele’s artistic development slowed markedly. The stylistic shifts that occurred between 1917 and the artist’s death in October 1918 are almost imperceptible, and they evidence none of the volatility that characterizes his work through mid 1915…Soft pencil gives way to black crayon, which yields heavier, more even lines that are less prone to fluctuations in density and strength. The artist’s contours now hew exclusively to the requirements of representational accuracy, with little latitude for expressive deviation…Overall, Schiele’s palette is more subdued and naturalistic than ever before. He was less concerned with color than with volume and shape, and increasingly he was driven to explore his subjects through drawing alone.’
Private collection, Australia, since the late 1990s.