Egon Schiele's 'Colourful Laundry' bring $40m World Record price
Egon Schiele led a brief but eventful life. Though he died aged just 28, he had already left a significant body of work including a number of nudes which caused a reaction wherever they were displayed.

He had already lost his father, but gained the friendship of a father-figure in the form of Gustav Klimt.

Schiele's painting - Häuser mit bunter Wäsche, 'Vorstadt' II of 1914 - is one of just a small number of cityscapes by Schiele remaining in private hands. The name translates as 'Houses with Colourful Laundry'.

Ahead of the auctioni, Helena Newman, Chairman, Impressionist & Modern Art, Sotheby's Europe, said:

"We are thrilled to be offering this masterpiece of 20th century art in our June sale. Its richness of colouration achieves a transcendental intensity that epitomises Schiele's unique contribution to the development of 20th-century art.

"The painting is unquestionably one of the greatest Schiele oils ever to come to the market but, quite aside from its rarity and quality, it is also distinguished by an illustrious provenance, having never before appeared on the auction market, and having previously resided in just two great collections since the artist painted it - those of Heinrich Böhler and the Leopold Collection."

Vienna's Leopold Museum had actually sold the work in order to settle a dispute dating from Nazi times, when it is thought to have accepted art confiscated from Jewish families. It is paying the descendents of one Jewish family $19m.

Schiele painting Hauser mit bunter Wasche
Schiele's colourful work Hauser mit bunter Wasche

There were no questions about the provenance of this work however (which might be important for its value as an investment).

Acquired - in the year it was painted - by Schiele's friend and greatest patron Heinrich Böhler, the painting was subsequently sold by Böhler's widow in 1952 to Rudolf Leopold, founder of the Leopold Museum.

Leopold himself commented: "The colorful laundry, infused with much more motion than its surroundings, may in Schiele's eyes have symbolized the still innocent and carefree lives of children and young people. Grown old, they remain in their dwellings, crowded into a constricted space."

The work sold for a world record price of £24.7m (just under $40m) at Sotheby's London yesterday evening (June 22).


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