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Friday, December 24th, 2010

A Remarkable Posthumous Debut


Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, The Short Trip, 1965. Oil on canvas, 34-3/4 x 50 inches. The Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, London, Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne, New York

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, The Short Trip, 1965. Oil on canvas, 34-3/4 x 50 inches. The Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, London, Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne, New York

The final, short gallery-going week of the year is also New York’s last chance to catch a remarkable posthumous debut. Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, an artist who spent a long lifetime operating under the radar, is the subject of a comprehensive exhibition at Galerie St. Etienne, through Thursday.  The daughter of an illustrious, aristocratic Austrian-Jewish family, she spent the better part of her life in London, from 1939 to her death in 1996, a few months shy of her 90th birthday.  She was protégé to Max Beckmann and later, and to a lesser degree, Oskar Kokoschka, but for all the manifest influence of both, von Motesiczky is an audaciously lyrical painter of expressive, poignant, sometimes haunting allegories.  She achieves the universal through thoughtfully conceived, spontaneously executed meditations on the particulars of a life in exile.  This is never more profoundly striking than in the darkly humorous series of frank depictions of her elderly mother and companion-in-exile, Henriette, such as Mother in a Green Dressing Gown (1975), (see thumbnail) as well as the earlier The Short Trip (1965), above.  Von Motesiczky’s fellow Viennese Hampstead-transplant, art historian Sir Ernst Gombrich, found a detachment in these images comparable to Dürer’s treatment in charcoal of his mother —mighty praise from a significant source.

Until December 30 at Galerie St. Etienne, 24 West 57th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, New York City, (212) 245-6734.

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, Mother in Green Dressing Gown, 1975.  Oil on canvas, 26 x 22 inches.  The Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, London, Courtesy of Galerie St. Etienne, New York

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