Arthur Roessler, born in Vienna in 1877, was an editor, a writer, an art consultant, art historian and art critic. He was a talent-scout of his day. He was quick to see artistic potential and was happy to encourage and sponsor young talent, in particular the somewhat quirky and provocative art of Egon Schiele.
Schiele's portrait of his friend Arthur Roessler dates from 1910. This intriguing picture, 99x99 cms, oil on canvas, currently hangs in the Leopold Museum, Vienna.
We see a handsome, distinguished man, well dressed and elegant, sitting in a curious pose with his hands across his body. Those hands are large, long, lean and artistic. Centrally positioned in the picture, they immediately claim the viewer's attention. The thumbs are not displayed; Schiele considered thumbs to be stumpy and ugly, out of harmony with the rest of the hand.
Our attention is then drawn to the uniformity of colour: dominating shades of brown. Even the skin and hair tones blend with the various browns of Roessler's smart suit.
His head, in profile, gives an impression of fine intelligence behind the half-closed eyes and the composed expression. In contrast, the knobby, angular body does not express such composure, it looks alert, anxious and uncomfortable.
The milky background of creamy-beige whirls directs attention onto the darker central figure; the resulting light/dark contrast almost creates a 3D effect.
Egon Schiele was a protégé of Klimt and contributed to the development of the Expressionist movement in Austria. In 1909, he founded the "New Art Group" and arranged an exhibition. Through this he met Arthur Roessler who became his sponsor and remained his friend.