Oskar Kokoschka: March 1,1886-Feb.
"I try to keep my sitters moving and talking,
to make them forget they are being painted. This has nothing to do with extracting intimate secrets or confessions, but rather
with establishing, in motion, an essential image of the kind that remains in memory or recurs in dreams."
Another artist that is not easy to peg into a nice little package is Oskar
Kokoschka. He spent much of his childhood in Vienna, Austria. His father was a silversmith and struggled during the
slow economic times. There he entered the School of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) were he painted crafts and postcards.
This is the school Adolph Hitler was rejected from: "Hitler
unfortunately failed the exam. If I had failed in his place, the world would have been spared a good deal of misery. Hitler
would have become a bad painter, and I should have become a reasonable, understanding politician.” Although
the end goal was to become an art teacher, he was kicked out after his shocking Expressionist work that was seen in a local
art exhibition. He worked writing expressionist plays and working with architect Adolf Loos to
perfect his techniques as an artist. He was also greatly influenced by the artworks by Jan Comenius,
Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Vincent van Gogh,
as well as the arts of the Baroque in general as well as the art of Eastern Asia.
When World War I was beginning, Kokoschka was living in Germany and volunteered to serve. He became a dragoon, a foot soldier that is trained to also fight on horseback. On the frontline
by 1913, he was seriously wounded and discharged in 1916. After the war, he began traveling to gain inspirations
and teaching art around the world. Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He was everywhere. He was settling down again in Vienna
when he became more than a little alarmed by the growing power of the Nazis. In 1935 he was living in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
While there he became a legal citizen. Back in Nazi Austria, Hitler had labeled his art as “degenerate.” Angered and fearful of the German push toward Czechoslovakia after they took control of Austria,
he fled on to England in 1938 (where he also became a citizen) but would move on to Villeneuve, Switzerland to teach at the
International Summer Academy of Art.
Over his life, Kokoschka became known as a stubborn artist who created amazing expressionistic
portraits and urban landscapes. He worked in the two major styles of the time: Die Brücke
and Der Blaue Reiter. With his favored a high vantage point, no doubt an Asian infusion, he created amazing
painterly landscapes. “True dreams and visions should be as visible to the artist as the phenomena
of the objective world.” He was able to bring is ideas forward in his works by restricting the
colors in his palette, being aware of the surface texture in his work, and through distortion of his subject matter.
Kokoschka also created lots of portraits. His best known was The Tempest
(sometimes called The Bride of the Wind). After a long
relationship with Alma Mahler, she ended up rejecting him for another man. He would continue to love her all his life. When
they broke up, he even bought a life sized doll of her and the doll appears in several of his paintings. "Finally,
after I had drawn it and painted it over and over again, I decided to do away with it. It had managed to cure me completely
of my passion. So I gave a big champagne Party with chamber music, during which my maid Hulda exhibited the doll in all its
beautiful clothes for the last time. When dawn broke - I was quite drunk, as was everyone else - I beheaded it out in the
garden and broke a bottle-of red wine over its head." But this painting, The
Tempist, was his tribute to Mahler. It shows the couple in a wave of emotion. "Consciousness is the grave of things, the place where they cease to exist, beyond which they end. And when
they have ended, it seems that they no longer have any essential existence except in the visions in me." Oskar Kokoschka
died of old age in Montreux, Switzerland: he was ninety-four.
1914. Oil on canvas. 5 feet 11¼ inches
x 7 feet 3 inches. Kunstmuseum, Basle, Switzerland.