TEFAF (The European Fine Art Foundation) has announced that Neue Galerie New York, USA and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA), Belgium are the recipients of this year’s TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund (TMRF), an annual grant created in support of the international art community’s vital work to preserve artistic and cultural heritage.
With TEFAF’s funding, Neue Galerie New York will restore Egon Schiele’s (1890-1918) Town among Greenery (The Old City III) (1917), a piece the museum received as a gift in 2006. It previously spent 90 years in the private family collection of Otto and Marguerite Manley, important Jewish collectors who escaped Vienna in 1937, to whom authorities agreed to ship the painting to the United States in 1948 on the condition that it could be included in the Venice Biennale.
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Egon Schiele’s Town among Greenery (The Old City III) (1917)
This oil on canvas work is viewed as one of Schiele’s most significant landscapes and was among his last paintings completed before his death. The composition features brushy greenery, framing an overhead view of a medieval townscape—probably an imaginary interpretation of the Austrian city of Krumau, his mother’s birthplace—complete with colourful façades and figures enlivening the narrow streets of this densely packed vignette. The inclusion of figures in a landscape painting is unusual for Schiele.
The Schiele restoration will stabilise the surface of the painting. Funding from TEFAF will additionally support a scientific study of this picture in comparison with other Schiele landscapes to understand why he added them in select pictures toward the end of his career.
Renée Price, Director of Neue Galerie New York, commented, “Egon Schiele completed Town among Greenery about a year before his death in October 1918, and it is an exceptional and unusual example of the Austrian Expressionist’s landscape paintings. All of us at the Neue Galerie are so grateful to receive this grant from the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund. The restoration of Town among Greenery ensures that the Neue Galerie will be able to preserve and safely present this extraordinary work by Schiele for many years to come.”
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp will use TEFAF’s funding to restore Michaelina Wautier’s (1604–1689) Two Girls as Saints Agnes and Dorothea (c.1650), a piece the gallery has had in its possession since 1910. Though Wautier was held in high regard during her lifetime, the painting’s provenance saw it initially attributed to an anonymous master before being given to Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaert (1614-1654). It was not until 2003 that P-Y Kairis demonstrated on stylistic grounds that it is most definitely by Wautier.
Michaelina Wautier’s Two Girls as Saints Agnes and Dorothea (c.1650)
The portrait is consistent with Wautier’s refusal to content herself with the domestic subjects female artists were confined to studying during the period. The blonde girl stroking a lamb plays the part of St Agnes, whilst the other girl laying roses around a basket of apples and holding a martyr’s palm in her left hand is St Dorothy.
The restoration, which is the second to be carried out on the work, will address areas of deformation and denting on the painting’s surface, as well as burn marks and the painting’s varnish having yellowed in recent years. Conservation efforts will include preliminary investigation and documentation, before taking measures including the consolidation of paint layers, dusting and surface cleaning, structural treatment, filling and retouching, amongst others.
Carmen Willems, General Director of Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, commented, “In the 17th century Michaelina Wautier made a name for herself as an artist of widely varied genres. She did not limit herself to classically feminine subjects such as still life or portraits. Since the early 2000s, Wautier has begun to regain renown. It is only natural that she is also prominently displayed in the museum among works by her contemporaries. This year, we are restoring Two Girls together with Wautier’s Portrait of a Young Man. Treating works by the same artist at the same time has previously proven to add value to research and restoration projects.”
Hidde van Seggelen, President of TEFAF commented, “Ensuring works of art are preserved for the benefit of generations to come is one of the founding principles behind TEFAF’s Museum Restoration Fund, and we are delighted to be supporting these two wonderful projects in 2023. To have the work of one of the great Austrian Expressionist painters conserved, alongside an outstanding Baroque artist, speaks to the incredibly important role played by the Museum Restoration Fund in reinforcing TEFAF’s commitment to scholarship and academia across the art historical cannon.”
TMRF 2023 events programme will include a digital presentation of Wautier’s Two Girls as Saints Agnes and Dorothea at TEFAF Maastricht in March and a dedicated TEFAF Talk in collaboration with the International Council of Museums (ICOM-CC), both of which are supported by Aon, the TMRF Maastricht Fair Partner.