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Couple in the Countryside, 1908

Leopold Museum,
Oil on canvas
111.2×90.7 cm


  • Richard Gerstl

    (Vienna 1883–1908 Vienna)

Currently on display at OG3
On the Traunsee lake in the summer of 1908, Richard Gerstl (1883–1908) intensively dedicated himself to plein-air painting. In addition to landscape motifs, he also painted this double portrait. The identity of the couple remains unclear. According to unproven assumptions, the woman could be Mathilde Schönberg (1877–1923), with whom the young artist had a secret love affair. The male figure could be Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871–1942), Mathilde Schönberg’s brother, who became famous as a conductor and composer. The two subjects are gazing directly out of the picture, seemingly approaching the observers. Their features, however, are only hazily hinted at. Darkened areas and symbolic brushstrokes stand for eyes, noses and mouths. The hands of the lady are an amorphous mass of color that is spreading downwards. Breaking with the academic tradition, Gerstl abandons the principles of portrayal and realism and focuses on his painting style instead. His brushstrokes are broad, sweeping, energetic and spontaneous. In the background, the greens of meadow, hedge and orchard are shining in fresh shades, but no exact shapes are given.

A closer look

The artwork explained by
art expert Angelika Katzlberger

Object data

  • Richard Gerstl
Couple in the Countryside
Art movement
Oil on canvas
111.2×90.7 cm
Credit line
Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 645
Inventory access
Contributed to the Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung in 1994
Selection of Reference works
  • Richard Gerstl. Inspiration - Vermächtnis, hrsg. von Hans-Peter Wipplinger u.a., Köln 2019 (Ausst.-Kat. Leopold Museum, Wien, 27.09.2019-20.01.2020).
  • Wien 1900. Aufbruch in die Moderne, hrsg. von Hans-Peter Wipplinger, Wien 2019 (Ausst.-Kat. Leopold Museum, Wien, ab 15.03.2019).
  • Wien 1900. Sammlung Leopold, hrsg. von Diethard Leopold/Peter Weinhäupl, Wien u.a. 2009.

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Provenance research
Leopold Museum i

Nachlass Richard Gerstl, Wien (1908);
August und Alois Gerstl, Wien (1908-1931); (1)
Neue Galerie, Wien (1931-1954); (2)
Galerie Würthle, Wien (1954-1976); (3)
Hans Dichand, Wien; (1976-1977); (4)
Dr. Rudolf Leopold, Wien (1977-1994); (5)
Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung, Wien (1994).

  1. Bildrückseite am Keilrahmen links oben: Stempel: Nachlass Richard Gerstl.
    Otto Kallir: Richard Gerstl (1883-1908). Beiträge zur Dokumentation seines Lebens und Werkes, in: Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Galerie, Jg. 18 (1974), Nr. 62, S. 125.
  2. Kallir, Gerstl, 161 u. 126f. Dr. Otto Nirenstein erstellt 1931 ein Nachlassverzeichnis, das Bild “Doppelbildnis (grüner Hintergrund)” erhält die Nummer 47. Ankauf von 36 Gemälden von Alois Gerstl.
  3. Kallir, Gerstl, S. 135; Katalog der Secession, Wien 1966, Nr. 40
  4. Susanne Bichler, 1865 – 1995: Ein Überblick, in: Galerie Würthle, Katalog zu „Galerie Würthle. Gegründet 1865“, Jubiläumsausstellung, Wien 1995, S. 9-16, S. 14f.
  5. Archiv des Leopold Museums, Tauschvertrag vom 18.04.1977

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