Schirn Kunsthalle
Frankfurt, Germany
24 FEBRUARY – 14 MAY 2017

He is the “first Austrian Expressionist,” and for many he continues to be an insiders’ tip: the painter Richard Gerstl (1883–1908). He died at the young age of 25 and is mentioned in the same breath as the great masters of Viennese Modernism: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka. During his brief lifetime, the artist created an exciting and unusual, though relatively limited body of work consisting of some 80 artworks and featuring a number impressive highlights and pioneering innovations. The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the first extensive German retrospective devoted to Richard Gerstl, comprising nearly all of his known works. It is the oeuvre of a seeker, an artist who anticipated much of what was later articulated by other artists, including the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s. In addition to nudes and landscapes, Gerstl’s preferred genre was the portrait. The exhibition at the Schirn features wild, gestural group portraits alongside portraits of close friends and relatives and his own self-portrait as a nude figure—the first such work by an artist since Albrecht Dürer. Gerstl’s painting reflects his concern with the contradictions of modern art. He opposed the style and contents of the art of the Vienna Secession, rejected its concept of beauty, and painted in defiance of traditional rules. He painted merciless, self-confident pictures that owe allegiance to no models and continue to be as unique as ever to this day.

CURATOR Dr. Ingrid Pfeiffer, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt