Vienna’s Prodigal Son

Richard Gerstl, “Self-Portrait” (winter 1906-07), india ink on paper, Private Collection

On Nov 4, 1908, during a age of 25, painter Richard Gerstl committed self-murder in his Vienna studio, both unresolved and stabbing himself. Gerstl’s self-murder was stirred by a find of his event with Mathilde Schönberg by her husband, Arnold Schönberg — a modernist composer and Gerstl’s tighten friend. Before his death, Gerstl broken letters, records and paintings in his studio, though he left in his arise a physique of design that reveals a supernatural and black talent.

The mythology of a passionate, inconstant prodigy, forward of his time, and black in a Nietzschean clarity of hostile a currents of one’s time, pervades Richard Gerstl during Neue Galerie, a artist’s initial US museum retrospective. Organized thematically, a muster includes some-more than half of a roughly 70 works that have been attributed to Gerstl given his rediscovery by Viennese art play Otto Kallir in 1931. The underlying account of talent and tumult and a strength of a work enterprise a doubt of what would have been had he not finished his life.

Richard Gerstl, “Mathilde Schönberg” (summer 1907), tempera on canvas, Belvedere, Vienna

The answers are various. His fullness and reinterpretation of influences suggests a painter who knew his talents and had a trickery and enterprise to take on new territories of artistic expression. This characterization is upheld by a artist’s few working letters and notes. In a muster catalog he is quoted as observant he is posterior “entirely new paths” and friends and kin endorse his convictions.

Curator Jill Lloyd, a dilettante in Austrian and German Expressionism, reiterates a thesis of a artist’s prevision by exhibiting name works by his contemporaries — many particularly Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, and Gustav Klimt — alongside Gerstl’s paintings.

Klimt, whom Gerstl discharged as a multitude painter, frequency sacrificed a worldly beauty of his womanlike sitters for middle emotion. Born in 1890, Schiele (represented in a muster by a 1917 mural of Arnold Schönberg), began to benefit commend a year after Gerstl’s death. Kokoschka, innate in 1886, worked in a same duration of hectic artistic perturbation as Gerstl and was, in some ways, some-more radical. A producer and playwright as good as a painter, his mural “Rudolf Blümner,” from 1910, portrays a sitter as cross-eyed, with prominent, prejudiced hands and a wraithlike physique dissolving into a spatial chasm. Yet Kokoschka’s radical derangements, of his possess physique as good as those of his sitters, are mostly infused with story and noted by theatricality.

Gerstl, on a other hand, comes opposite as fiercely focused on exploring his technique and a amiability of his subjects (including himself in his several self-portraits) with a startlingly complicated miss of affectation.

Richard Gerstl, “Semi-Nude Self-Portrait” (1902-04), oil on canvas, Leopold Museum, Vienna

The full-length “Semi-Nude Self-Portrait,” embellished between 1902 and 1904, while Gerstl was underneath a lean of Symbolist painters such as Ferdinand Hodler, lacks a majority of his after self-portraits. His full frontal pose, his physique wrapped in a cloth from a waist down, evokes a figure of Christ, an outcome heightened by a heat of a sapphire background. But aspects of a artist’s after style, and his contempt for allegory, symbolism, and a Academy, are already apparent: for instance, a uneven brushwork, dappled with light, a volume of aspect area allotted to a credentials and a approach it competes with a design of a artist — who all though disappears in after self-portraits, if not for his trenchant external gaze.

The catalog and wall texts bring outpost Gogh and Munch as vital influences. While outpost Gogh is benefaction in a complexity of Gerstl’s colors — rural palettes in some works, dim earth tones with golden highlights in others — and in his increasingly thick, gestural application, he was equally gladdened to Munch’s expressions of existential angst, eventually pulling illustration to a margin of dissolution.

Madness underpins “Self-Portrait, Laughing,” antiquated summer-autumn 1907. Gerstl portrays himself from a shoulders adult with a far-reaching grin. The slight roughness of his facial features, with one brownish-red and one blue eye (the blue left eye popping out opposite a earth tones), and a pointy slope of his shoulders contributes to a clarity of mania, though a incomparable power lies in a communication between a face and background.

Richard Gerstl, “Self-Portrait, Laughing” (Summer-autumn 1907), oil on canvas, Belvedere, Vienna

Gerstl fills in a credentials with abrupt, vibrated brushstrokes in an worldly brown-beige that reflects his face and clothing. While a dappled credentials draws courtesy divided from Gerstl’s face, it seems concurrently to catch him, infringing on a edges of his silhouette. It comes opposite as a maelstrom of tone cohering during a core into a person, or, alternately, a chairman in a routine of disintegrating.

Gerstl’s condensation of his theme matter reached an impassioned in his late landscapes, many embellished while he vacationed with a Schönberg family in a city of Gmunden nearby Salzburg. In “Small Landscape during Traunsee” (August 1907), lax swirls of paint clear a blue sky and sprouting immature meadow; a board is bisected plumb by a willowy black line of a tree case forged into a thick pigment. “Landscape Study” (September 1907) is serve abstracted: extended smears of paint, squeezed true from a tube or practical with a palette knife, are roughly mysterious as a landscape adult close.

Richard Gerstl, “The Schönberg Family” (late Jul 1908), oil on canvas, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Gift of a Kamm Family, Zug 1969

The following summer, he again vacationed with a Schönbergs in Gmunden. A portrait, “The Schönberg Family” (late Jul 1908), portrays Arnold, Mathilde, and their dual children as pools of paint amid a glass yellow and immature landscape. Gerstl’s character in this and identical works goes over Austrian or German Expressionism, laying a grounds for Abstract Expressionism. Visionary, though recognised from a substructure of outpost Gogh and Impressionism, it exemplifies a artist’s suggestion of grave innovation.

Yet, among his many distinguished works is a partially required illustration of Mathilde Schönberg from a summer of 1907. Rendered in tempera rather than oil, Gerstl portrays Mathilde as dark and expressionless, dressed in a light-yellow-and-ochre kaftan and seated with folded arms in front of a goldenrod wall and blue doors of a Schönbergs’ farmhouse. Here, a artist’s destiny mistress is some-more a blank in a impressive space than a focus.

Gerstl’s self-portraits are equally constrained since he conflates narcissistic self-scrutiny with a clarity of piety and his possess insignificance. Where associate Austrian Expressionists Kokoschka and Schiele, and German counterparts, such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, represented themselves by sexuality, machismo or gendered self-performance, Gerstl portrayed himself as slipping away. He is off-center and defaced (“Fragment of a Full-Length Self-Portrait, Laughing,” c. 1904); hidden in shadows (“Self-Portrait in front of a Stove,” winter 1906-1907); and in his final self-portrait, bare and awkward, with a bluish pallor (“Nude Self-Portrait,” Sep 12, 1908).

Richard Gerstl, “Self-Portrait” (winter 1907-spring 1908), oil on canvas, Leopold Private Collection, Vienna

A tiny self-portrait on a scarcely block board (16 3/8 by 15 3/8 inches), antiquated winter 1907-spring 1908, is some-more unsettling. Described by Kallir in 1931 as “Head, self-portrait, fact of a incomparable painting,” and presumably cut from a full-length portrait, a painting, as Gerstl left it, depicts a artist in grave dress from a tip of his chest up, opposite an olive immature backdrop. Gerstl, in a three-quarter profile, his conduct slanted somewhat downward, glances, covertly or nervously, during a viewer. Too tiny to devour a design craft (his conduct reaches about three-quarters to a tip edge), he seems lilliputian by a space, engulfed by emptiness.

Gerstl’s talent and prophesy are matched in this portrayal by a psychological weight. It feels both claustrophobic and unanchored. It would take a universe fight for his Expressionist peers to display this turn of anxiety.

Richard Gerstl continues during Neue Galerie (1048 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan) by Sep 25.

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