The art collection of Austrian ophthalmologist Rudolf Leopold (1925-2010) contains over 5,000 objects. The core of Sammlung Leopold includes over 40 paintings, over 180 drawings and watercolors as well as countless autographs by Egon Schiele (1890-1918), making it the largest and most important Schiele collection in the world.
In addition, the famous Sammlung Leopold contains works by a number of other artists from the era “Vienna around 1900” (German article on the exhibition at the Leopold Museum: Vienna 1900: Birth of Modernism; English catalog of Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk) as well as in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to paintings, watercolours, drawings, sculptures, furniture and autographs, the collection also includes works from East Asia, Africa as well as European folk art.
In 1973, Phaidon Press published Rudolf Leopold’s book Egon Schiele: Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings. At that time, the Austrian expressionist was still little known internationally. The first edition is soon sold out. For a planned second edition, Leopold made additions and corrected the text with handwritten notes. These have been incorporated into this 2nd revised edition published in December 2020 (English edition: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk).
Rudolf Leopold wrote this book after 20 years of collecting and researching. He visited people who had known the artist personally, including Schiele’s sister, Melanie Schuster-Schiele; his sister-in-law, Ada Harms (sister of Edith Schiele); Anton Peschka; Rudiger Engerth; Arthur Roessler; Otto Nirenstein-Kallir; and Vita Künstler.
Early on, Rudolf Leopold had also started collecting books and essays on Schiele by Heinrich Benesch, Anton Faistauer, Fritz Karpfen and Arthur Roessler. He collects contemporary pamphlets, the series Bildende Künstlercopies of The actionand autographs, letters from and to Schiele, examples of his poetry, and finally old documents and photographs.
His travels to places where Schiele had lived and painted were important for his research, including Stein on the Danube, the ancient town of Krumau on the Moldau (today Český Krumlov), his mother’s birthplace, which Schiele visited on many occasions. In a chapter of this publication, photographs of Schiele’s Krumau patterns are juxtaposed with his finished paintings. In the first edition, this pattern guide caused a sensation and is still an important part of the book today.
The editors write that, where possible, sources have been added to the new edition; where information is missing, it can no longer be identified. All pictorial material has been newly photographed and the location of works in the plates section has been updated.
Leopold’s love for art was awakened when, at the age of 22, he visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna for the first time. The works of old masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Brueghel and Velázquez made such a deep impression on him that he was determined to surround his life with art. In his long search for an artist who could inspire him, he discovered Egon Schiele’s first catalog raisonné by Otto Nirenstein-Kallir from 1930. Rudolf Leopold would later write: “Schiele’s works showed me that even in our century, there are artists as magnificent as the Old Masters – and who moreover have the virtue of dealing with the problems of our time.
In their works, the expressionists — and especially Egon Schiele — dealt with the human condition. Schiele created a new body language, expressing emotional states such as ambivalence, despair and existential fear in a new way, by elongating and deforming the human body. Angularity and emaciation, aggressiveness and eccentricity particularly characterize his representations of nudes.
In 1908 and 1909, Egon Schiele was influenced by the style of Gustav Klimt but, from 1910, he radically deviated from it and gained artistic independence. He replaced Viennese Jugendstil with a provocative expressionism that made it relevant to art history.
In the preface to the new edition of Rudolf Leopold’s book, the editors write that there were several reasons why the ophthalmologist and art collector wrote the present monograph on Egon Schiele. First, he wanted to make Schiele better known, and particularly to emphasize the stature of his explosive expressionism of the years 1910 to 1915, for previously it was the work of Schiele’s last years, his most mature period, which was much admired. . Second, he wanted to place the paintings, watercolors and drawings in the context of distinct stages in the development of the artist. In their expressiveness and composition, the majority of watercolors and drawings are consummate works of art.
Rudolf Leopold divided Schiele’s work into five stylistic phases, each of which is discussed in detail. The most important works are introduced with more extensive commentaries in which Leopold pays particular attention to composition. Moreover, the collector touches on their expressive force and the inner feelings of their subject.
If only the artist had lived longer. What else could he have accomplished? In October 1918, in the space of three days, Egon Schiele and his wife Edith, six months pregnant, died of the Spanish flu. On his deathbed, the artist made two drawings of his wife (pp. 492 and 493). These are Schiele’s last works.
Rodolphe Leopold: Egon Schiele: Catalog raisonné. Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings. Hardcover, Hirmer Verlag, 2nd revised edition, December 2020, 728 pages with 931 color and black and white illustrations, 30 × 30 cm. Order the English edition at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk.
For easier reading, quotes and partial quotes in this book review are unquoted. Book review added on May 13, 2022 at 3:28 p.m. Austrian time.