In many ways, apart from his marginally risqué marriage with a Viennese actress and this small portfolio of erotic drawings, Robert Schiff would be just one of a fairly large group of Austrian artists who earned their living mostly by painting portraits of upstanding fellow citizens. Schiff’s output included the author Bertha von Suttner and the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.
Schiff was born into an affluent Jewish family, but converted to Catholicism in his twenties, mostly as it was difficult for Jews at that time to advance professionally. In 1897, however, in keeping with his Jewish tradition, he married the actress Regina (Gina) Eibenschütz (1869–1956), daughter of David Eibenschütz, the Cantor of the Budapest City Temple.
Schiff trained in art in Vienna, Berlin, Munich and Paris. He was a member of the Wiener Künstlerhaus, and from 1902 to 1905 an early participant in the Hagenbund, a community of artists formed in 1899 and named after the inn the group frequented.
Robert and Gina had two children, Lotte (1900–56) who was a dancer, and Friedrich Hermann (1908–68), who also became an artist, best known for his colourful caricatures of everyday life in Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s.