Stehender Akt im Profil nach links pencil on paper 57 x 37.5cm (22 7/16 x 14 3/4in). Executed circa 1916-1917
PROVENANCE Georg Klimt, the artist's brother, Vienna (with his inscription 'Von Gustav Klimt gezeichnet/Georg Klimt', verso). Michael Powolny, Vienna. Robert C. Baru, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1967. Galerie Würthle, Vienna. Mr. and Mrs. Harris B. Steinberg. Their sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 8-9 April 1970, lot 113. Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 31 March 1982, lot 167b. Purchased from the above by the present owner.
EXHIBITED New York, Finch College Museum of Art, Contemporary Wing, Documentation, Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, 15 October-24 November 1968.
LITERATURE A. Strobl, Gustav Klimt, Die Zeichnungen 1912-1918, vol.III, Salzburg, 1984, no.2763 (illustrated p.163).
Alice Strobl notes in her catalogue raisonné of Klimt's drawings that this sketch is from a series of studies related to Die Freundinnen of the same date (fig. 1). The finished painting belonged to Klimt's most important patrons, the Leiderer family, and was destroyed in a fire at Schloss Immendorf, Austria, in 1945 after being seized by the Nazis.
The final composition shows two women, one fully clothed and one covered only by a swathe of patterned material over her shoulder, who face the viewer as a couple, painted almost as one unit. Rendered in rich, vibrant hues, the background of the work is filled with decorative birds and flowers stylised in an Oriental manner, illustrating Klimt's influences from Japanese art. As a late composition, in Die Freundinnen 'the ornamentation of the figure reaches a high point. The body is dematerialised and dissolves into a decorative play of lines, and thus the figure is subordinated to the vegetable-organic basic pattern of the picture' (A. Weidinger, Gustav Klimt, Munich, 2007, p.303).
The present work echoes the finished composition in the sinuous lines which trace the woman's breast, waist and stomach. Other preparatory sketches show that the artist experimented extensively with the pose of the nude woman, studying her in profile as in the present work, but also seated, lying down or standing facing the viewer as in the final composition. The models vary too from more full-figured women with curved stomachs and thighs to thinner figures with protruding ribs. Other sketches explored the placement of the two women together, their clothing and the motifs of the background.
Klimt increasingly explored homosexual relationships in his later erotic sketches and in Die Freundinnen seemingly celebrates a lesbian love. Presented in this study as an anonymous sexual object, the model turns to face the viewer in the final painting, taking on an identity and challenging us with the truth of her relationship.