Portrait of Wally” is less about the man who painted it — Viennese wunderkind Egon Schiele — than it is about the trail of the work’s owners. The fascinating tale is one of betrayal, ownership, and the clash between public cultural institutions and private collections.
Schiele’s sometimes graphic portraits — of mistresses, models and wives — embody the decadence of 1920s Vienna, with plenty of nudity. They embody a battle between voluptuousness and brittleness, indulgent in sexuality but keenly aware of the constantly dying frame carrying this flesh around. It’s the kind of progressive fun upended so easily by the evil of the Nazis.