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Still Life with Books (The Artist’s Desk), 1914 - 1916

Leopold Museum,
Leopold Museum,
Oil on canvas, verso: Oil on canvas
117.5×78 cm


  • Egon Schiele

    (Tulln 1890–1918 Vienna)

Currently on display at OG3
As a still life, the depiction of his desk represents a rarity in Egon Schiele’s (1890–1918) oeuvre. Stylistic reasons suggest that the artist began creating the work in 1914, but according to the dating in red, however, he continued to work on it until 1916. He tilts the desk into the picture plane so that the books appear to be piling up vertically. Next to the books we can see further utensils, including a brass candlestick, an ink well, pens and a blotting paper holder. The crowning glory of this alternative self-portrait are two wooden horses from Schiele’s folk art collection, Toyhorse being in the Leopold Museum’s collection. The curtain along the left edge of the picture, whose striped pattern resumes the rhythm of light and dark on the desk, can be rediscovered as a garment of Schiele’s wife, for instance in Edith Schiele in a Striped Dress, Seated dating from 1915.
The medium on which this painting was created is unusual: Schiele used two pieces of canvas, sown together. The bigger piece had already been used for a painting. Since Schiele painted on the reverse, the early work Semi-Nude Youth (Self-Portrait) was preserved. Because of the partial use of metallic colors, the work is believed to have been created in late 1909. In Nude Boy with Gray Shirt (Self-Portrait), a corresponding drawing has also been preserved. Contemporary descriptions suggest that the painting on canvas may have been the work that Schiele exhibited under the title “The Ailing Man” in December 1909 at the first exhibition of the Neukunstgruppe at Kunstsalon Pisko in Vienna, an artists’ association which he had co-founded shortly before. It is unclear, however, why he chose to discard the early work in favor of a still life of his desk, but such decisions were not uncommon in Schiele’s artistic process.


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Object data

  • Egon Schiele
Still Life with Books (The Artist’s Desk)
Alternative title
Verso: Semi-Nude Youth (Self-Portrait), 1909
1914 - 1916
Art movement
Oil on canvas, verso: Oil on canvas
117.5×78 cm
Signed and dated lower left: EGON SCHIELE 1916 (created 1914)
Credit line
Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 458
Inventory access
Contributed to the Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung in 1994
Selection of Reference works
  • Rudolf Leopold: Egon Schiele. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, hrsg. von Elisabeth Leopold, München 2020.
  • Tobias Natter: Egon Schiele, Sämtliche Gemälde 1909-1918, Köln 2017.
  • Wally Neuzil. Ihr Leben mit Egon Schiele, hrsg. von Diethard Leopold/Stephan Pumberger u.a., Wien 2015 (Ausst.-Kat. Leopold Museum, Wien, 27.02.2015-01.06.2015).
  • Trotzdem Kunst! Österreich 1914-1918, hrsg. von Elisabeth Leopold/Ivan Ristić u.a., Wien 2014 (Ausst-Kat. Leopold Museum, Wien, 09.05.2014-15.09.2014).
  • Jane Kallir: Egon Schiele - The complete works. Expanded edition including a biography and a catalogue raisonné, New York 1998.
  • Otto Kallir: Egon Schiele. Oeuvre Catalogue of the Paintings, New York 1966.
  • Otto Nirenstein: Egon Schiele. Persönlichkeit und Werk, Berlin 1930.
Catalogue raisonne
  • J. Kallir 1990/1998: P297
  • Leopold 1972/2020: 253
  • Natter 2017: 182
  • O. Kallir 1966: 218
  • O. Kallir (Nirenstein) 1930: 141
  • Verso: J. Kallir 1990/1998: P173
  • Verso: Leopold 1972/2020: 149
  • Verso: Natter 2017: 37

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Provenance research
Leopold Museum i

Galerie Würthle, Wien (o.D.);
Dipl. Ing. Kurt Wieser, Wien (vor 1930-1950);
Dr. Rudolf Leopold, Wien (nach 1950-1994); (1)
Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung, Wien (1994).

  1. Otto Nirenstein, Egon Schiele. Persönlichkeit und Werk, Berlin 1930, S. 89, Nr. 141; Archiv des Leopold Museums, Dr. Georg Wieser an Dr. Patrizia Spiegelfeld (LMPS) vom 13.02.2002; Michael Wladika, Egon Schiele. Schreibtisch-Stillleben, Dossier vom 30.06.2010, S. 6-8

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