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Franz Skarbina

(1849–1910, Berlin)

Study of an Elegant Young Woman with an Umbrella, seen from behind. Pen and point of brush and black ink on brownish drawing cardboard. 27.5 x 19.1 cm. Signed and dated: „Skarbina Nov. 1878."

This sprightly and well observed study of a pretty young woman seen from behind is an early work by Franz Skarbina, whose best drawings bear a very close resemblance to those of Adolph von Menzel, an artist he greatly admired and tried to model himself on. Skarbina was the son of a goldsmith who had emigrated from the Croatian capital of Zagreb. He studied at the Berlin Academy, where he stayed on as a teacher after 1878. From 1885 to 1886 Skarbina lived and worked in Belgium and France. In Paris he was greatly influenced by the art of the French Impressionists. After his return to Berlin, Skarbina soon came to be considered as one of the main representatives of naturalistic painting in Germany. In 1898 he was one of the founding members of the Berlin Secession.

In his early work Skarbina produced a number of small-format pictures in oil on paper, watercolour and gouache, in which he sought to capture the many different aspects of Berlin street life in a realistic style influenced by Menzel. The present study dates from this stylistic phase. Skarbina’s penwork is free, deft and of great spontaneity, as befits the fleeting nature of what is observed. The anonymous young woman with her pretty profile and elegantly gathered dress may leave the observer’s field of vision at any moment. Of great graphic delicacy is the contrast between the fine, filigree weave of lines used to render the woman’s clothing in a way that one can almost feel its texture, and the vigorous hatchings and brush strokes used to create areas of shadow. It is no accident that the bold calligraphic signature is also reminiscent of Menzel.

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