Friday, March 10, 2017


Schirn Kunsthalle Frank­furt 
February 24 to May 14, 2017

He is the “first Austrian Expres­sionist,” and for many still an insiders’ tip: the painter Richard Gerstl (1883–1908). He only lived to be 25 years old and yet he is mentioned in the same breath as the great masters of Vien­nese Modernism: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka. During his brief life Gerstl created an exciting and unusual, though rela­tively limited oeuvre with impres­sive high­lights and pioneering inno­va­tions.

From February 24 to May 14, 2017, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frank­furt will be presenting the first retro­spec­tive of Richard Gerstl’s work in Germany. His painting reflects his concern with the contra­dic­tions of modern art. He was a rebel whose paint­ings opposed the Vienna Seces­sion in terms of both style and content; he rejected their concept of beauty and committed himself to an aesthetic of ugli­ness. Gerstl loved to provoke and painted against the tradi­tional rules in the convic­tion that he was treading “completely new paths” in art. He created merci­less, confi­dent paint­ings that do not adhere to earlier models and remain unique to this day. His oeuvre is that of a seeker who antic­i­pated much of what was later artic­u­lated by other artists, for example in the paint­ings of Abstract Expres­sionism during the 1950s.

The portrait, espe­cially the self-portrait, nudes, and land­scapes are Gerstl’s preferred genres. The exhi­bi­tion at the Schirn presents, for example, two of his self-portraits: the earliest one,

Richard Gerstl, Semi-Nude Self-Portrait, 1902/04, Oil on canvas, 159 x 109 cm, © Leopold Museum, Vienna

"Semi-Nude Self-Portrait (Selb­st­bildnis als Halbakt)" from 1902/04,

Richard Gerstl, Nude Self-Portrait, September 12, 1908, Oil on Canvas, 139,3 x 100 cm, © Leopold Museum, Vienna
and his last, "Nude Self-Portrait (Selb­st­bildnis als Akt)" from 1908.

Besides portraits such as

Richard Gerstl, The Sisters Karoline and Pauline Fey, March / April 1905, Oil on canvas, 175 x 150 cm, Belvedere, Vienna

"The Sisters Karo­line and Pauline Fey (Die Schwestern Karo­line und Pauline Fey)" (March/April 1905)

Richard Gerstl, Portrait of Henryka Cohn, June 1908, Oil on canvas, 147,9 x 111,9 cm, © Leopold Museum, Vienna

and "Portrait of Henryka Cohn II (Bildnis Henryka Cohn II)" (summer 1908),

The exhi­bi­tion also features the numerous like­nesses of Mathilde Schönberg, such as

"Mother and Daughter (Mutter und Tochter)" (late 1906)

Richard Gerstl, Seated Female Nude, Fall 1908, Tempera on canvas, 166 x 116 cm © Leopold Museum, Vienna

and "Seated Female Nude (Sitzender weib­licher Akt)" (fall 1908),

as well as portraits of friends and students of the composer Arnold Schönberg,

Richard Gerstl, The Schönberg Family, late July 1908, Oil on canvas, 88,8 x 109,7 cm, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien
Gerstl’s painting "The Schönberg Family (Die Familie Schönberg)"

Richard Gerstl, Group Portrait with Schönberg, late July 1908, Oil on canvas, 169 x 110 cm, Kunsthaus Zug, Stiftung Sammlung Kamm, Photo: Kunsthaus Zug / Alfred Frommenwiler

and espe­cially the "Group Portrait with Schönberg (Grup­pen­bildnis mit Schönberg)" (both late July 1908) consti­tute a high­light of the exhi­bi­tion.

More images:

Richard Gerstl, Portrait of Alexander von Zemlinsky, July 1908, Oil on canvas, 170,5 x 74,3 cm, Kunsthaus Zug, Stiftung Sammlung Kamm, Photo: Kunsthaus Zug / Alfred Frommenwiler

Richard Gerstl, Laughing Self-Portrait, Summer/Fall 1907, Oil on canvas, 40 x 30,5 cm, Belvedere, Vienna

Richard Gerstl, Couple in a Field, July 1908, Oil on canvas, 111,2 x 90,7 cm © Leopold Museum, Vienna

Richard Gerstl, Mathilde Schönberg in the Garden, July 1908, Oil on canvas, 171 x 61 cm © Leopold Museum, Vienna

Richard Gerstl, Portrait of Mathilde Schönberg in the Studio, Spring 1908, Oil and mixed media on canvas, 171 x 60 cm, Kunsthaus Zug, Stiftung Sammlung Kamm, Photo: Kunsthaus Zug / Alfred Frommenwiler

Richard Gerstl, Grinzing, Spring 1906, Oil on canvas, 29,7 x 40,2 cm, Private collection, Courtesy Galerie St. Etienne, New York

The Schirn has assem­bled no fewer than 53 of the 60 surviving works by Richard Gerstl, including loans from leading Austrian museums such as the Leopold Museum, the Galerie Belvedere, MUMOK, the Wien Museum, the Albertina, the Oberöster­re­ichis­ches Landesmu­seum Linz, and the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg.

A large number also come from the Neue Galerie in New York, and further works from impor­tant private collec­tions in Europe and the United States. A schol­arly publi­ca­tion will accom­pany the exhi­bi­tion that will include—for the first time since 1993—an updated cata­logue raisonné.