With the Eye of the Painter

Egon Schiele (Tulln 1890 - 1918 Wien) Grüner Zaun (Schmiedehof, Klosterneuburg), 1907 Öl auf Karton; 24,8 × 17,5 cm EUR 150.000-300.000

Egon Schiele (Tulln 1890 – 1918 Vienna)
Green Fence (Schmiedehof, Klosterneuburg), 1907
Oil on cardboard; 24.8 x 17.5 cm
EUR 150,000-300,000

One afternoon in late autumn, a young man strode through the area of the monastery at Klosterneuburg known as Schmiedehof (the blacksmith’s yard), suddenly stopped and quickly painted one corner of the yard, a green fence, cobble stones and – as an almost narrative element – two chickens pecking at feed.

What fascinated him about this plain yard, with its peeling facades and leafless vines? What does an artist see that is hidden to others?

It was Egon Schiele,

who took some cardboard to this place, turned it to portrait format and looked closely at what stood before him. Perhaps he briefly thought about the picture he had painted here a year previously, when he was experimenting with a spray technique and tried to capture this simple subject in paint with its clear forms. It wasn’t the obvious technique for a passionate sketcher like him, but he followed the advice given to him by his first patrons, the painter Max Kahrer, and his drawing teacher Ludwig Karl Strauch, to capture the colours of the world in paint. He practised brush work, layering and the effects of colours, while neglecting his actual art – which was lines and drawing.

How do you draw colours?

Schiele needed the year of 1907, when he already was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, to unify in his mind, painting, drawing and the appearance of the colours of the world with the abstract outline of drawing. This was exactly what he was able to do in this small oil study in Klosterneuburg. The narrow view selected allowed for deep perspective, with the green fence and its rhythmic series of boards giving a line for the eye to follow, while the brush dove deeply into the oil to flowingly describe the facades, the cobbled yard, the fence and the chickens. Finally, at the end of what was a brief process of painting, Schiele turned the brush round and dragged it through the still wet layer of oil in brief strokes of the drawing technique so dear to him. The chickens gained feathers, the vines gained leaves and this unlikely subject gained painterly importance.

The green fence

was one of the first of the pictures seen at the 1st Klosterneuburg art exhibition in 1908 by Heinrich Benesch, an important patron of the arts interested in Egon Schiele, and a true friend. He immediately realised that these “small, mostly landscape oil studies, painted so easily and confidently … were something unique.” And it still remains unique.

This painting will be auctioned on 20th June 2017 in the “Impressionist & Modern Art” auction at im Kinsky.

Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, im Kinsky