Sotheby’s announced late last week that it would be offering an Egon Schiele work being sold as part of a private restitution discovered by Sotheby’s own researchers. The $12m work will be sold in the Impressionist and Modern Evening sale on November 12th:
Sotheby’s is honored to announce that Egon Schiele’s masterwork landscape Dämmernde Stadt (Die Kleine Stadt II) (City in Twilight (The Small City II)) will highlight our Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in New York on 12 November 2018.
Painted in 1913, Dämmernde Stadt is one of Schiele’s finest landscapes remaining in private hands, with comparable works now principally found in museum collections. The dreamlike view above the city of Krumau – birthplace of the artist’s mother – documents the pivotal period during which Schiele established his singular and now-iconic visual language, after years of shadowing his mentor Gustav Klimt.
Independent of its art historical importance, the work is distinguished by the remarkable family history it has brought to life. Dämmernde Stadt was purchased in 1928 by Elsa Koditschek, a young Jewish widow living in Vienna. During the course of her harrowing persecution by the Nazis following the annexation of Austria in 1938, the work was forcibly sold in payment of alleged debts to the very person who helped Elsa survive. Sotheby’s will present the work this November as the resolution of a joint and private restitution between the present owners and Elsa’s heirs.
Elsa’s story is told today through an extensive and incredibly rare family archive of correspondence she wrote throughout the war and for years after. However, her heirs had remained unaware of the landscape until recent years, when Sotheby’s research on an unrelated picture uncovered reference to the Koditschek name. Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Restitution, and Andrea Jungmann, Managing Director of Sotheby’s Austria, initiated a dialogue between the family and the present owners that has ultimately resulted in the present offering.
Dämmernde Stadt is estimated to sell for $12/18 million in the 12 November auction.
DÄMMERNDE STADT (DIE KLEINE STADT II)
The series of large-scale townscapes painted by Egon Schiele between 1913 and 1917 show him working at the apex of his artistic powers, experimenting with elements of composition, color and form that would eventually lead him to Abstraction.
Dämmernde Stadt depicts the small, medieval town of Krumau, the birthplace of Schiele’s mother and one of only two locations that are the subjects of his celebrated landscapes. Referred to by Schiele as the “dead city”, Krumau’s compact configuration was intriguing to the artist, who captured its winding streets and crumbling buildings from perched atop the high left bank of the Moldau river – known today as the Vltava in the Czech Republic. The result of this radical approach to perspective is a flat pictorial dreamscape that reflects both his highly-personalized interpretation, as well as his emotional and psychological response to the storied town.
These stylistic elements manifest in myriad characteristics throughout the canvas: the boldly-delineated shapes of buildings’ rooftops; twilight cast in a muted palette; and windows aglow with brilliant, jewel-like colors reminiscent of Gothic stained-glass. In looking to a Medieval past, Schiele was aligned with a contemporary strain of Gothic revivalism. However he was also attuned with the artistic movements developing concurrently across Europe at the time. His adoption of the high viewpoint and his growing sensitivity to formal relations suggest that he was looking at the work of Post-Impressionist artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. The influence of Klimt’s experiments with form, and the square format in particular, are also apparent in the present work.