Liegender Frauenakt mit schlafendem Kind im Steckkissen blue and red crayon on paper 35 x 55.2cm (13 3/4 x 21 3/4in). Executed circa 1904-1908
PROVENANCE Hermine Klimt, the artist's sister, Vienna (with her inscription 'Nachlass meines Bruders Gustav./Hermine Klimt', upper left). Otto Brill, Vienna (Lugt 2005a). Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 31 March 1982, lot 166a. Purchased from the above by the present owner.
LITERATURE A. Strobl, Gustav Klimt, Die Zeichnungen 1904-1912, vol.II, Salzburg, 1982, no.1782 (illustrated p.177).
Gustav Klimt drew prolifically from the beginning of his career and would alternate between his left and right hand, sketching for several hours a day.
The landscapes, architecture and interiors explored in Klimt's paintings were largely ignored in his drawings, which focussed almost entirely on the female form. Besides the named portraits of society women, there are numerous studies of anonymous models. They were typically sketched nude or half-dressed and presented in highly provocative poses, apparently for the enjoyment of the male viewer: 'the pencil or crayon line with which they are described explores and caresses as though the art of drawing was itself part of the process of foreplay and intercourse. These women are exclusively sexual objects.' (F. Whitford, Klimt, London, 1990, p.161).
Klimt drew several sketches of pregnant women, couples cradling their child and even a father alone with his baby, but the theme of family is nonetheless comparatively rare in his oeuvre and can be dated to the years 1904-1908. Klimt's own attitude towards the family unit was unconventional: his lifelong companion was the sister of his brother's widow, Emilie Flöge, but they never married and he was known to have had affairs with several of his models. After his death in 1918, no fewer than fourteen children came forward to claim legitimacy.
Drawn in the crayon Klimt favoured prior to 1906, the artist delineates the sitter in the present work with elegant and deft lines, capturing her with the barest of details: 'Klimt frequently isolated his models by drawing only their outlines and then enhancing this isolation by omitting any internal modelling of their bodies' (G. Fliedl, Gustav Klimt 1862-1918, The World in Female Form, Cologne, 1997, p.193).
However, this model is not the anonymous object presented in so many of Klimt's sketches she gains an identity through motherhood: the stare which may have initially been read as sexual or provocative now transforms to that of a protective challenge. By presenting us with an uncommon image of motherhood, the artist according to Frank Whitford is nonetheless demonstrating an unease typical to the men of his time: 'in the art and literature of the period, the common, contrasting images of the female as 'woman' and 'lady', 'whore' and 'mother', unwittingly betray an unease and fear in the face of a growing challenge to conventional definitions of gender.' (F. Whitford, Klimt, London, 1990, p.169).