Richard Gerstl (Vienna, 1883-Vienna, 1908) began his art studies at the Vienna Art Academy. His early painting was in the style of the Vienna Sesession and the Austrian Jugendstil and was influenced to some degree by thedecorative paintings decorative and murals of Gustav Klimt.
By 1905 Gerstl had developed his own distinctive and vibrant Expressionist style with the use of a heavy impasto technique. The subjects of his portraits often appear to have distorted faces which relates them to the works of contemporaries such as James Ensor and Edvard Munch. Such distortions, combined with heavily textured brushwork, grant a high degree of psychological intensity to Gerstl's portraits, the most famous of which are of the family members of the composer Arnold Schoenberg.
Shortly after a disastrous affair with Schoenberg's wife, Gerstl committed suicide at the age of 25. Along with Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, Gerstl is considered one of the three top Expressionists from the Austrian School.
Gerstl did not have an exhibition during his lifetime and his paintings remained virtually unknown until the 1930s. Less than 90 of his works are known to exist. The Leopold Museum in Vienna houses some of his pictures today.
Source: Benezit's Dictionary of Art and Oliver Parfitt, Oxford University Press
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