Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele, and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection at The Met Breuer, July 3 – October 7, 2018

“Scofield Thayer (1889–1982) was editor and co-owner of the Dial, a journal that published writing and art by the European and American avant-garde (many of whom are pictured nearby) from 1919 to 1926. An aesthete, he was a brilliant abstract thinker and a complex, conflicted personality. In the early 1920s, Thayer underwent psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud in Vienna. While in Europe, he assembled a large collection of some six hundred artworks—mostly works on paper—with staggering speed, acquiring them from artists and dealers in Vienna, London, Paris, and Berlin. 

While Pablo Picasso’s work had been shown in America, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele were unknown in this country at that time. Both artists were remarkable for their frank portrayals of female nudity and sexuality. Indifferent to cultural norms, they were committed to capturing exactly what they saw in its stark, unadorned, and, to some, shocking essence. 

In 1924 a selection from Thayer’s collection was exhibited at a New York gallery and won acclaim, but it found little favor when shown in his native city of Worcester, Massachusetts. Offended by intolerant views toward provocative art, Thayer drew up his will in 1925, leaving his collection to The Met before retreating from public life until his death in 1982. An exhibition of the bequest has been planned since its arrival at the Museum in 1984, but its diversity, unevenness, and vast quantity proved a challenge. While a select group of paintings by artists of the School of Paris is always on view, the light-sensitive watercolors, drawings, and prints have been rarely displayed. This exhibition, held on the centenary of the 1918 deaths of Klimt and Schiele, presents these erotic and evocative works together for the first time.” — Introductory Wall Text

Gustav Klimt, (Austrian 1862–1918). Reclining Nude, ca. 1913. Graphite, 14 7/8 x 22 1/2 in. (37.8 x 57.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982

Gustav Klimt, (Austrian, 1862–1918). Two Studies for a Crouching Woman, 1914–15. Graphite on paper. Sheet: 21 1/2 × 13 7/8 in. (54.6 × 35.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982

Gustav Klimt, (Austrian, 1862–1918). Reclining Nude with Drapery, Back View, 1917–1918. Graphite, 14 5/8 x 22 3/8 in. (37.1 x 56.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982

Egon Schiele, (Austrian, 1890–1918). Self-Portrait, 1911. Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, 20 1/4 x 13 3/4 in. (51.4 x 34.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982

Egon Schiele, (Austrian, 1890–1918). Standing Nude with Orange Drapery, 1914. Watercolor, gouache and graphite on paper, 18 1/4 x 12 in. (46.4 x 30.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982

Egon Schiele, (Austrian, 1890–1918). Standing Nude in Black Stockings, 1917. Watercolor and charcoal on paper, 18 1/8 x 11 5/8 in. (46 x 29.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982

Pablo Picasso, (Spanish, 1881–1973). Youth in an Archway, 1906. Conté crayon on paper, 23 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (59.1 x 42.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982 © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso, (Spanish, 1881–1973). Three Bathers by the Shore, 1920. Graphite on paper, 19 3/8 x 25 1/4 in. (49.2 x 64.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982 © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso, (Spanish, 1881–1973). Head of a Woman, 1922. Chalk on paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982 © 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Title photo by Corrado Serra for Arts Summary.

Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection is organized by Sabine Rewald, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator for Modern Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.