Tue, 29th Jun 2021 14:00

19th & 20th Century Paintings and Works on Paper

  Lot 5 §


Property from the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

Girl by the fire
oil on canvas
55.5 x 81 cm (21 7/8 x 31 3/4 in)
Painted in 1941

London, The Czechoslovak Institute, Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Marie Louise von Motesiczky and Mary Duras, 1944, no. 39, titled Bonfire
Vienna, Wiener Secession; Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt, Wolfgang Gurlitt Museum; Munich, Galerie Günter Franke; Bremen, Kunsthalle, Marie-Louise Motesiczky, 1966-1968, no. 14
Liverpool, Tate, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, 2006, no. 33, illustrated in the catalogue

G. Hart, 'Heimkehr mit dem "Bild der Mutter"', in Volksstimme, Vienna, 11 May 1966, n.p.
L. Phillips, 'Hidden in Hampstead. The life and work of Marie-Louise von Motesiczky', in The Jewish Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 4, Winter 2001-2002, p. 31
I. Schlenker, '"But an émigré...not at all". Marie-Louise von Motesiczky in England', in Marie-Louise von Motesiczky 1906-1996, (exh. cat), Tate Liverpool; Museum Giersch, Frankfurt am Main; Wien Museum, Vienna; Southampton City Art Gallery, 2006, p. 136
I. Schlenker, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky 1906-1996, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, New York, 2009, p. 150, no. 52, illustrated

The present work shows Marie Hauptmann, a shoemaker's daughter from Bohemia tending a bonfire in the garden of Cornerways, the property the Motesiczky's acquired on Chestnut Lane in Amersham in 1941.

Marie had originally been taken on by the von Motesiczkys as wet nurse to Marie-Louise in Vienna, after she had been in service with another family, and become pregnant by the son of the house. Marie subsequently became indispensable as Marie-Louise's 'second-mother' and a vital support to her actual mother Henriette. Although Marie spoke not a word of English she followed Henriette and Marie-Louise to England in 1939 (fig. 1), living wth them until she died in 1954 a the age of sixty-nine.

Despite Marie being well into her 50s when the present work was painted, Motesiczky titled the composition Girl by the fire. By way of explanation, Schlenker notes: 'Marie Hauptmann's features are not defined clearly enough to be recognizable, but the solid figure, the working clothes and especially the brightly coloured headscarf, which the artist had enjoyed buying for her, identify her beyond doubt.' (p. 150).

Describing the individuality of the composition Schlenker observes: 'The painting has a rough, sketchy, almost primitive and unfinished air which prompted one critic to compare Marie Hauptmann to 'a Native American squaw'' (ibid), and notes that Elias Canetti, who saw Marie as an integral part of the painter's life, recognised Marie's totemic presence in this painting.

Estimated at £3,000 - £5,000


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