By Della Hasselle
UPPER EAST SIDE — Sculptures by Austro-Bavarian artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt made their U.S. debut at the Upper East Side's Neue Galerie Thursday.
Messerschmidt’s exhibition also marks the first time that Neue Galerie, a museum that specializes in German and Austrian art, has collaborated with the Louvre Museum.
"Franz Xaver Messerschmidt 1736-1783: From Neoclassicism to Expressionism," will continue on to Paris in late January after its fall debut in New York.
Messerschmidt, who lived in Vienna from 1736 to 1783, is considered to be one of the most influential sculptors of his time. He is said to have anticipated expressionism by more than a century.
Messerschmidt was also said to have psychological problems, and is known for his "explorations of the dark side of the human soul," according to the museum's website. He created his most famous work in the midst of a nervous breakdown.
In order to create the pain on the faces of his sculptures, Messerschmidt would reportedly stand in front of a mirror, pinch his abdomen and thighs and contort his face into grimaces, and then copy his expression.
"He may very well have been exorcising his own demons," Neue Galerie communications manager Leah Ammon said.
"Alternately grimacing, gaping and leering, these arresting sculptures push the boundaries of expressive form," Ammon said about the sculptures. "Mask-like and uncanny, they appear tinged with madness."