Sotheby's Fine Art World In June
Each June, the international community of art collectors and dealers, museum trustees and curators, art historians and amateur enthusiasts, make its yearly trek through Europe to see and be seen, to buy and sell, and to find out who is ascendant and who is not in the global art market. In Italy, at the Venice Biennale (ever other year); Basel, Switzerland at the world’s grandest Private Art Dealers fair of 20th and 21st Century Art; and London for the annual Summer auctions, private jets fill the airports and limos await at ever corner to facilitate this grand art migration. On 22 June, Sotheby’s London will offer for sale one of the most important oils by celebrated Austrian artist Egon Schiele ever to come to the market. The painting, Häuser mit bunter Wäsche, “Vorstadt” II of 1914 (translated as Houses with colorful Laundry, “Suburb” II) ranks among just a small number of significant cityscapes by Schiele remaining in private hands. In 1911, Schiele, one of the leaders of the early Modern Austrian art movement known as Seccessionism (contemporary with Cubism in France and Expressionism in Germany), had moved with his mistress to the small southern Bavarian town of Krumau, where this work was painted, in order to free himself from the claustrophobic life of Vienna. Scheile, known for his bohemian ways and paintings and drawings of exquisite and provocative nudes, that often verged on the pornogrphaphic, was little welcome in the provincial towns of the region and had to eventually return to the city.
The houses in the painting are rendered as if stacked up one upon the other, rising up the picture-plane with their vibrant roofs and walls. This compositional format, using an imagined elevated perspective, is typical of Schiele’s most accomplished cityscapes. It suggests the vantage point of a soaring bird, or a visionary, hovering above the landscape and looking down from the heights
Having been acquired in the year it was painted by Schiele’s friend and greatest patron, Heinrich Böhler, the painting was subsequently sold by Böhler’s widow in 1952 to Rudolf Leopold, founder of the Leopold Museum in Vienna, which boasts a pre-eminent collection of Austrian 20th-century art. Collectors are rightfully enthralled with such rare masterpieces with distinguished histories of ownership (provenance) that have never traded before on the open market. For these reasons, the painting now comes to sale for the first time, with an estimate of £22-30 million/ $36-50 million.