Executed in 1917, Sitzende Frau mit violetten Strümpfen is one of the most arresting and accomplished works on paper from Schiele's mature period. Although not depicted in the nude, the woman radiates a palpable erotic appeal, achieved through her intimate garments partially revealing her arms and legs, her assured pose, striking hair and dreamy gaze. Her eyes wide open, the model looks provocatively at the viewer. Unlike Schiele's sexually explicit drawings of his earlier, adolescent years, the great accomplishment of the present work is the way he combined a softer rendering of the figure and an almost classical sense of beauty, with the erotic resonance associated with his nudes. The woman in violet stockings takes up the entirety of the picture surface. Her physical presence is so dominant that her head appears to extend beyond the edge of the sheet, as if to suggest that she occupies the viewer's space rather than being confined to the picture plane.
A closely related work Liegende Frau mit grünen Strümpfen (fig. 1), which Schiele also executed in 1917, depicts a female model which has been identified by Alessandra Comini as Adele Harms, the artist's sister-in-law (A. Comini, Egon Schiele's Portraits, Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, 1990, p. 147 & pl. 139). Depicted in the same undergarment and with a similar hair-style, it can be assumed that Schiele used the same model in the present work. The young sisters Edith and Adele Harms lived across the road from the artist's studio on Hietzinger Hauptstrasse in Vienna, which he occupied from November 1913 until shortly before his death. Having initially courted both sisters, in 1915 he married Edith, and throughout 1917 both of them appear frequently as his models.
Alessandra Comini wrote: 'The "unconquered" Adele became increasingly desirable in his eyes and in 1917, as part of his efforts to entice her, he persuaded the self-identified "nun" to pose for his camera in her underclothes [fig. 2] as well as in the nude. Schiele's photograph is of interest other than as the documentation of a seduction. It incorporates all of his fetishes – the high heels, black stockings, garters, dentil-lated underslip, and fragile band containing a potential torrent of hair – and catches the model in a provocative, intimate pose that bears all the hallmarks of a Schiele drawing, as comparison with a watercolor portrait of Adele done the same year makes clear [fig. 1]' (ibid., p. 147).
In January 1917 Schiele was released from military service and returned to Vienna, and the period that followed was marked by a hectic and fruitful artistic activity and relative prosperity. His financial situation improved with a number of wealthy patrons who commissioned him to make portraits and magazine illustrations, and towards the end of the war, he seems to have witnessed a growing interest in art among the Viennese public, together with a more relaxed attitude in relation to his avant-garde and often shocking art. By the time he executed the present work, Schiele's own technique had matured, and he turned from the frenzied, sexually explicit works of the pre-war years towards a more assured, elegant and arresting style (fig. 3).
As Jane Kallir observed: 'He had always been a demon draftsman, capable of achieving stop-action effects comparable to those of photography, and his line, by 1917, had acquired an unprecedented degree of precision. [...] Schiele's drawing technique – the armature upon which all his painted forms rested – had acquired an almost classical purity. Peschka accused him, with some accuracy, of reverting to Griepenkerl's precepts, and it is true that Schiele's work manifested a heretofore unknown fidelity to the representational integrity of his subject matter and a new sensitivity to the ability of line to suggest volume. Schiele's hand had never been surer, more capable of grasping, in a single breathtaking sweep, the complete contour of a figure. This extreme dexterity invited mannerism; when his subject was not particularly exciting, drawing was just too easy for him. And yet, when he was inspired, his execution was flawless; he had found, in the best of his late work, the perfect line' (J. Kallir, Egon Schiele, Life and Work, New York, 2003, pp. 223 & 230).
Fig. 1, Egon Schiele, Liegende Frau mit grünen Strümpfen (Reclining Woman with Green Stockings), 1917, gouache and black crayon on paper, Private Collection
Fig. 2, Adele Harms, 1917. Photographed by Egon Schiele
Fig. 3, Egon Schiele, Sitzende Frau mit hochgezogenem Knie (Seated Woman with Bent Knee), 1917, gouache, watercolour and black crayon on paper, Národní Galerie, Prague
Gouache and black crayon on paper
(possibly) Salzburg, Künstlerhaus, Egon Schiele, 1950, no. 67
(possibly) Munich, Galerie Wolfgang Gurlitt, Egon Schiele, 1957, no. 75 (titled Mädchen mit violetten Strümpfen)
(possibly) Heidelberg, Kunstverein, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, 1962, no. 83 (titled Mädchen mit violetten Strümpfen)
Turin, Galleria d'Arte Galatea, Schiele, 1963, no. 41
Milan, Luca Scacchi Gracco Studio d'Arte Contemporanea, 1963, no. 42, illustrated in the catalogue
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Egon Schiele: Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, 1964, no. 77
London, Fischer Fine Art, Egon Schiele: Watercolours, Drawings, Graphics, 1975, no. 29, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Galerie Octave Negru, Egon Schiele: dessins et aquarelles, 1976, no. 7, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de Ville de Paris, Passions privées, 1995-96, collection A41, no. 10, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (illustration reversed)
29.3 by 44.2cm. 11 1/2 by 17 3/8 in.
Pierre Rouve, 'Schiele', in Arts Review, 13th June 1975, p. 338
Simon Wilson, Egon Schiele, Oxford, 1980, illustrated pl. 33 (with incorrect measurements)
Jane Kallir, Egon Schiele: The Complete Works, New York, 1998, no. 1992, illustrated p. 581
(possibly) Galerie Wolfgang Gurlitt, Munich
Meshulam Riklis, USA
Fischer Fine Art, London
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York
Galerie Octave Negru, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976