A ‘long-lost’ nude drawing by Egon Schiele was found in a Habitat for Humanity thrift store in Queens, New York and it is valued at more than US$100,000.
The pencil drawing was made in 1918, the year the Austrian painter died of Spanish flu at age 28. Depicted in the drawing is a nude of “a girl who modeled for Schiele frequently, both alone and sometimes with her mother in 1918,” said Jane Kallir, the world’s leading expert on Egon Schiele and the author of his catalogue raisonné.
In June 2018, Jane Kallir, also the director of Galerie St. Etienne in New York, received an email with a blurry photo attached from a man asking for authentication of the drawing. It was not an unusual request as she receives emails from time to time from people claiming to have found a Schiele work. “We get hundreds of photographs a year, and most of them are fakes or copies or just misidentified as Schiele's work. We asked for better photos, and he took a year to get back to us,” says Kallir.
She received a set of clearer photos from the man, after nearly a year, and she thought they looked genuine. She thus asked the man to bring the drawing to the gallery. Kallir said she was 99% sure that it was the real thing when she saw the piece in person, but she took some time to compare it the Schiele's other work.
There are about 20 drawings of the girl and her mother, and two were probably made on the same day as this drawing. Other drawings of the same woman are currently in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria.
The drawing is on display at Galerie St. Etienne as part of an exhibit called “The Art Dealer as Scholar”. It is now for sale with an estimate of more than US$100,000. The man who found it said he will donate a portion of his proceeds to Habitat for Humanity when it sells.
Schiele was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century and focused on the eroticised, female form under the influence of his mentor Gustav Klimt, another Viennese artist known for his landscapes and erotic female nudes.
Liegender Mädchenakt, one of Schiele’s pencil on papers, was offered at Christie’s London in June and sold for £1.27m, far above its estimate between £200,000-300,000.
The artist’s current auction record was set in 2011, when his 1914 Häuser Mit Bunter Wäsche (Vorstadt II) was sold for £24.7m (US$39.6m) at Sotheby’s London.