Richard Lányi owned a renowned, albeit tiny bookshop in the Kärntnerstraße in Vienna, where he invited selected customers, whose interest seemed to be genuine, to the first floor in order to show them his very special art collection. Also Paul Wengraf was one of these customers, a young fellow art dealer, whose mother had established and ran an antiques shop in the Singerstraße. In the course of one of his visits in 1917 he recognised unusual portraits of a man, lieutenant Grünwald, in gouache technique. The sheets were signed „Egon Schiele“.
Had he known the artist before? On the basis of Schiele’s fame, probably, but the characteristic and striking image of a man instead of that of a woman was definitely something new to the young art dealer.
Thus, he decided on the spur-of-the-moment to commission the artist with a portrait of himself. One turned into three: a gouache, a charcoal drawing, and a chalk drawing. Each portrait is different: the former two works are more representative, whereas in the last drawing the artist captured the impulsive emotion of the portrayed person and delivered in Wengraf’s own words „the best depiction of my inner and outer self“.
Focus is set on the sidewards turned face in the instant of shock, when the man’s hands touch his temples to protect them. It seems as if just now a thought crossed his mind, and his eyes hidden behind glasses gaze absently into the distance. Schiele shows us a man of both spirit and emotion.
… therefore that Josef Hoffmann chose this image for the exhibition which he was curator of in Stockholm, to alter the image of the warring Austria. And not surprising that Paul Wengraf missed this portrait and took it when he emigrated to London. And also, not surprising that Viktor Fogarassy purchased exactly this drawing for his famous collection.
The drawing will be auctioned in the “Impressionist & Modern Art” auction on 5 December 2017.
Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, Auktionshaus im Kinsky