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LONDON (Reuters) - A cityscape by Austrian artist Egon Schiele is expected to fetch a record price of up to 30 million pounds ($50 million) when it goes under the hammer for the first time next month, Sotheby's said on Thursday.
The vibrant "Hauser mit bunter Wasche 'Vorstadt' II" -- translated as "Houses with colorful Laundry, 'Suburb' II" -- is being sold by Vienna's Leopold Museum and is a rare opportunity for a private collector to bid for a Schiele cityscape.
"The painting is unquestionably one of the greatest Schiele oils ever to come to the market," said Helena Newman, chairman of Impressionist and Modern art at auction house Sotheby's.
"Quite aside form its rarity and quality, it is also distinguished by an illustrious provenance, having never before appeared on the auction market and having previously resided in just two great collections since the artist painted it."
The oil on canvas painting is loosely based on motifs from the southern Bohemian town of Krumau where Schiele's mother was born, and where he moved with his lover Walburga Neuzil (Wally) in 1911 to escape the stifling atmosphere of imperial Vienna.
Jumbled houses and strings of colorful laundry dominate the view, painted from an elevated perspective typical of the artist's more accomplished cityscapes that suggest the vantage point of a soaring bird.
It was painted in 1914 at the height of Schiele's short and controversial career, just four years before his death in the Spanish influenza epidemic at the age of 28.
Proceeds from the sale are likely to be used to help pay for the settlement of a long-running restitution dispute over a 1912 portrait of Wally.
A Manhattan court has upheld claims the work had been seized by the Nazis, prompting the Leopold Museum to pay $19 million in 2010 in an out-of-court settlement to keep the painting.
Only three notable Schiele cityscapes have been offered for auction in the last decade, including one sold in 2006 for $22.4 million -- still the world auction record for the artist.
The Schiele painting will go under the hammer as part of the summer impressionist and modern art sale at Sotheby's in London on June 22.
Reporting by Nia Williams, editing by Paul Casciato