"When we put it on the a-frame cart to bring it to the gallery, we were rolling it past visitors in the museum and everybody stopped in their tracks to look at her,” said McGarry about “Standing Girl,” which is more than 4 feet tall. “What I love about it is it’s a staggering work of art — Schiele’s able to transform a brown piece of paper into a masterpiece.”
Standing Girl is the largest known drawing from Egon Schiele’s short but prolific career. His life played out against the backdrop of Sigmund Freud’s studies of the mind and intense debates about the treatment of human sexuality in the arts. Characteristic of early 20th-century Viennese art, this provocative sheet—actually brown wrapping paper—epitomizes the era’s decorative ornamentation and decadent eroticism. Schiele’s contours, at once graceful and awkward, create a momentary confusion between bodily mass and negative space, laying open the mysterious relationship between inward and outward realities. Setting the figure’s clawlike hands against her virginal, downcast eyes, Schiele struck a balance between corruption and purity.