An outsider at the Leopold Museum

Misjudged in his lifetime, Richard Gerstl now numbers among the most important representatives of Austrian Expressionism with his portrait and landscape paintings. The Leopold Museum is dedicating a comprehensive show to the artist.

The Austrian painter Richard Gerstl (1883 to 1908) did not have much time to bring his artistic talent to bear. He took his own life at 25 years of age. Nevertheless, he created an extremely modern oeuvre in the few short years he had. Gerstl is considered to be the first Austrian Expressionist, who created innovative works with his style even before Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka appeared on the scene. His secluded lifestyle and refusal to show his paintings in exhibitions makes his work assume the position of outsider when viewed by the rest of the world. Twenty-five years after the last monographic exhibition in Austria, the Leopold Museum dedicates a comprehensive presentation to the artist which is based on the impressive works of its own collection.

Gerstl was just 20 years old when he painted a portrait of his naked upper body set against a dark blue background. He was scrawny, had stomach problems, and was said to have had a brittle nature. He was his own most constant motif. What it was that interested him about himself and his own face remains a puzzle. A central, indeed almost fateful role in his life was played by his close contact with the group of musicians around the composer Arnold Schönberg.

However, this friendship came to an abrupt end in the summer of 1908 when it came out that Gerstl was having a love affair with Mathilde Schönberg. The painter lost all contact with the Schönberg group and fell into depression, having grown lonely and completely isolated. In the night of November 4 to 5, 1908, the young painter finally ended his life in his own studio. Gerstl's work subsequently fell into obscurity until it was presented to the public by the Viennese art dealer Otto Kallir-Nirenstein 20 years later. Nowadays, the most extensive collection of Richard Gerstl's works can be seen in the Leopold Museum.

Richard Gerstl / Inspiration – Legacy, September 27, 2019 - January 20, 2020



Follow us