Teresa Feodorovna Ries, ‘Selfportrait,’ 1902, oil on canvas.
(photo credit: W. SCHAUB WALZER / WIEN MUSEUM)
When Teresa Feodorovna Ries’s sculpture, “Witch Doing Her Toilet on Walpurgis Night,” was presented in Vienna’s Künstlerhaus in 1896, many of the city’s prominent art critics went berserk. The lively depiction of a free-spirited, nude woman mundanely trimming her toe nails with garden shears had offended them profoundly.They tagged the work “atrocious” and “tasteless”; complained about Ries’s decision to create “such a grotesque apparition out of precious marble”; and raged over the artist’s gender. “It’s a pity she suffers from the delusion that she can do men’s work that she was not born to do,” exploded the prominent art critic Ludwig Hevesi, who, like Ries, was Jewish, and who, a year later, became a pivotal force in promoting the Vienna Secession – an artistic movement that in 1897 rebelled against the dominance of the Künstlerhaus’s Artists’ Association.
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