(Tulln 1890 - Vienna 1918)
Portrait of August Lederer
Signed and dated EGON / SCHIELE / 1918 in pencil at the lower left.
Inscribed and numbered A. L. / Nr. 1. and 56. / E. L. in pencil on the verso.
463 x 293 mm. (18 1/4 x 11 5/8 in.)
It was through Klimt that Schiele was first introduced to the Lederer family in 1912, and he became especially close to their young son Erich Lederer (1896-1985), a budding collector who greatly admired the artist’s work. Schiele was to spend Christmas and New Year of 1912 as a guest on the Lederer estate in Györ in Hungary, when he began work on a painted portrait of the fifteen-year-old Erich, commissioned by the sitter. It is said that, upon first meeting Schiele, August Lederer asked him if he was as good as his son Erich said he was. In response, the young artist, then aged twenty-two, took out some paper, pencils and watercolours and, looking into a hallway mirror, produced a striking self-portrait drawing on the spot.
Over the next few years Schiele established an enduring friendship with the Lederer family, often visiting them at their home in Vienna and occasionally giving Erich drawing lessons. As Alessandra Comini has noted, ‘The patronage of this sympathetic and influential family was an important factor in Schiele’s eventual personal rehabilitation and one which deepened his appreciation of and interest in others.’ August and Serena Lederer always remained somewhat aloof from Schiele, however, and only owned one other painting him, apart from the portrait of their son, along with several drawings. Erich Lederer, on the other hand, became a lifelong friend of the artist and continued to collect his drawings for many years after Schiele’s death.
Schiele produced drawings of every member of the Lederer family, including three other portraits of August Lederer, all drawn in 1918, which were each acquired by the sitter and share the same later provenance as the present sheet. A stylistically comparable drawing of Lederer, showing him facing to the right, was on the art market in 2013, while another charcoal drawing of him looking to the left is in a private collection5. A third portrait drawing of August Lederer of the same date, again showing him looking to the left, is also in a private collection. As has been noted by one scholar, in the present sheet, ‘deftly sketched in only a few moments, Schiele sensitively captures the formally attired sitter, looking off to the left, a rather remote figure.’
The authenticity of the present sheet has been confirmed by Jane Kallir, who has assigned the drawing the catalogue raisonné number D.2455a in her archives.
After his release from prison Schiele returned to Vienna, and his work took on a less overtly erotic tone, with allegories, landscapes and urban scenes becoming more prominent, alongside portraits. He began to exhibit his work widely throughout Germany, and also began experimenting with printmaking. Drafted into the Austrian army in May 1915, Schiele’s poor health meant that he was assigned office duty, serving in a suburb of Vienna where he was tasked with guarding Russian prisoners of war. His work continued to be exhibited, however, although his output lessened. In 1917 he was transferred to a supply depot in Vienna, where he was able to live at home and continue to paint. It was not until the last year or so of his life that he began to achieve a modest amount of financial success. With the critical and financial success of his one-man exhibition at the Vienna Secession the following month, when every one of his works was sold, Schiele’s reputation was secured. By the final months of the First World War, and following the death of Gustav Klimt in February 1918, Schiele had become established as the leading avant-garde artist in Vienna. Sadly, this late taste of success was short-lived, as the artist died in October 1918 at the age of just twenty-eight, a victim of the worldwide Spanish flu pandemic.
By descent to his son Erich August Lederer, Vienna and Geneva
By descent to his wife, Elisabeth Lederer, Geneva
Acquired from her estate in 1998 by De Pury & Luxembourg Art, Geneva
Acquired from them in 1999 by Ronald S. Lauder, New York
Acquired from him by a private collection
Anonymous sale (‘Property of a Distinguished European Gentleman’), London, Christie’s, 7 February 2013, lot 221
Thomas Le Claire, Hamburg, in 2014