Richard Gerstl, born in Vienna on 14 September 1883, joined Christian Griepenkerl’s painting class at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1898. Constantly at odds with his teacher, he left the Academy before he could be expelled. In 1900 he took up his studies again at Simon Hollósy’s painting school in Nagyabánya, returning to Vienna one year later to continue his training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Heinrich Lefler’s ‘Special School for Painting’. Fascinated by music and philosophy, around 1906 he became close friends with Alban Berg, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schönberg, frequently portraying members of his family. Schönberg benefited from this friendship as it encouraged him to paint. Gerstl’s passionate love affair with Schönberg’s wife Mathilde came to a dramatic end and the painter committed suicide, after destroying a large proportion of his oeuvre, on 4 November 1908. It was not until 1931 that his art, created in just four years, was discovered when Otto Kallir-Nierenstein exhibited Gerstl’s work at the Neue Galerie in Vienna. His significance as an Expressionist artist is revealed by the bold colour combinations and rhythms rendered in striking, agitated brushwork. His early works are characterized by impastos and open brushwork while in his later images he was moving away from art’s representational function.