Austrian masters who should be better known. Schiele works stand out in intriguing exhibition

Anyone who enjoys the often extraordinary landscape images in ``Viennese Watercolors of the 19th Century,'' a new book by Walter Koschatzky reviewed here May 9, but who despaired of ever seeing any of the originals, can take heart. A few works by such Austrian masters as Rudolf Von Alt, Moritz Daffinger, Thomas Ender, Ludwig Jungnickel, and August Von Pettenkoffen are included in an intriguing exhibition of recent acquisitions and ``old favorites'' borrowed back from private collectors at the Galerie St. Etienne here.

While Alt's ``Landscape Near Salzburg,'' Daffinger's two studies of plants, and Pettenkoffen's richly colored and textured gouache ``Garden in Gr"uneau'' may not equal these painters' masterpieces, they do give the American viewer an excellent indication of why these watercolorists are so highly regarded in Europe - and why they should be better known here.

Not surprisingly, however, considering the crucial role this gallery has played in furthering the reputations of these artists, the bulk of the exhibition consists of good to very fine works by Egon Schiele, K"athe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin, Lovis Corinth, Gustav Klimt, Grandma Moses, and John Kane. Each is represented by at least five pieces - Klimt and Schiele by eight and 10, respectively.

All the works prove once again, if proof were needed, that size has nothing to do with quality.

Despite the fact that the Schiele paintings include none of his major works, he comes across most powerfully, probably because of the sheer magnitude of his genius. ``Thunderstorm Mountain,'' a stunningly distilled oil, is particularly effective in its ability to convey, by the simplest of means, both a sense of place and the dramatic potentials of nature. Also on view are a crayon study for this painting, several of Schiele's brilliant drawings and prints, and ``The Red Earth,'' a wonderfully compact, brooding oil of 1910.

Other outstanding works are Oskar Laske's fanciful ``After the Flood'' and ``Noah's Ark''; Kane's primitive but charming ``The Lassie''; Kubin's ``The Turkey''; Grandma Moses's unusually dramatic ``It Will Rain''; and ``Railroad Bridge,'' a small oil on tin executed by an anonymous American around 1870.

At the Galerie St. Etienne, 24 West 57th Street, through Sept. 16.

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