Who Was Wally Neuzil? Schiele’s Muse Honoured by Exhibition in Sinj

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The woman featured on Schiele’s iconic painting is getting some long-deserved recognition – in Croatia

Ask an art historian who their favourite artist is, and there’s a good chance they’ll laugh at your face. Choosing one is impossible. However, whenever I’m about to unroll a litany that’s my personal art pantheon, I find myself always starting with one particular genius – Egon Schiele.

I love this tortured Viennese soul so much, I have replicas of his work gazing at me from my bedroom walls, coffee-table books on his complex persona displayed in plain sight. Every trip to Vienna starts with a visit to the Leopold Museum, a mecca for all art nouveau lovers who, no matter how many times they’ve seen the iconic works of Klimt, Schiele and the like, come around again and again to admire the powerful visuals.

We’re months away from the 100th anniversary of the legendary artist’s death, with preparations for the jubilee in the Austrian capital well underway. So naturally, at this point, I was more than excited to find out about a curious link between Schiele and Croatia, one that has to do with one of his emblematic works – the portrait of his muse and lover Wally Neuzil you can see in the image above.

Painted in 1912, the portrait has long been a subject of controversy. In 2010, the painting was seized in the midst of an exhibition in New York, as it turned out it had previously belonged to a Jewish art dealer whose property was looted by the Nazis. After a $19 million settlement with the dealer’s heirs, the painting was taken over by the Leopold Museum, where it remains on display next to a Schiele’s self-portrait.

Where does Croatia come into play? According to The Art Newspaper, a Croatian journalist named Lana Bunjevac took it upon herself to track down the grave of Wally Neuzil. In 2015, Bunjevac discovered that Neuzil was buried at a cemetery in Sinj, a town close to Split, where she was stationed as a military nurse in the First World War when the area was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her grave was found in a disappointing state, to say the least, and a campaign has since been launched to restore the site as the iconic figure deserves.

We’ve already reported about Sinj being the final resting place of Schiele’s famous muse, but have since gotten more good news: a Viennese researcher named Robert Holzbauer, who called the upcoming restoration “an interesting monumental project for the European identity”, is currently preparing an exhibition on Neuzil in collaboration with the co-chair of the ‘Wally Neuzil Society’, Marija Škegro. The exhibition, titled ‘Who Was Wally Neuzil?’, is set to open on December 19, 2017 in Galiotović Gallery in Sinj. To round up the project, her birthplace in Tattendorf near Vienna is also about to be preserved, with the town in question already having agreed to provide funds for the grave restoration.

Discarded by the late artist who married a more prosperous match instead, then meeting her final fate in a small town where everybody was quick to forget her name, Neuzil is finally about to get some proper recognition.


Read more about the fascinating story of Schiele and Neuzil in this piece


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