‘Oskar Kokoschka – a Rebel from Vienna’

‘Oskar Kokoschka – a Rebel from Vienna’ is a major retrospective of the Austrian modernist artist’s work. Kokoschka was associated with both Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele in Vienna and achieved international renown with his revolutionary style of figurative art.

Kokoschka, who was born in 1886 in Pochlarn, Austria, was trained at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. His early works were expressive experiments in depicting the human form that shocked the Viennese public but influenced other artists. His aim was to reveal the inner self of the subject rather than to produce a conventional portrait..

Oskar Kokoschka ‘Herwarth Walden’ (1910)

From 1912 to 1914, Kokoschka’s muse was Alma Mahler, with whom he became obsessed, to the extent that when their relationship came to  an end he famously had a life-size doll made of her.

Oskar Kokoschka ‘Alma Mahler’ (1913)

Oscar Kokoschka ‘Tre Croci, Dolomite Landscape’ (1913)

Kokoschka joined the army at the outbreak of the First World War but was seriously wounded twice. Whilst receiving care for depression in a convalescent home in Dresden he became a professor in the city’s Academy of Fine Arts. The paintings he produced there were brightly coloured and extremely expressive.

Oskar Kokoschka ‘Self-Portrait’ (1917)

Oskar Kokoschka ‘The Power of Music’ (1918)

Oskar Kokoschka ‘The Painter II (Painter and Model II)’ (1923)

He then travelled extensively throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, but after the death of his sponsor, Paul Cassirer, he had financial problems and returned to Vienna. Two years later, he moved to Prague where he met and married Olda Palkovska. However, from Czechoslovakia he saw the rise of the Nazi party, which classified his art as ‘degenerate’, and he fled to England in 1938. After the end of the war he obtained British citizenship and this enabled him to continue his career in Europe.

Oskar Kokoschka ‘Self-Portrait of a Degenerate Artist’ (1937)

He eventually settled in Switzerland from where he confirmed his position as a leading international painter, becoming extremely influential for the next generation of artists, especially after his founding of the ‘School of Vision’ in Salzburg in 1953. It was not a school in the conventional sense but rather Kokoschka’s attempt to revive humanist ideals after the horrors of the war. He explained that the school, which was open to all, did not “strive towards technical skill, nor towards photographic imitations of nature, and not at all towards abstract art … I want to teach my students the art of vision”.

Kokoschka died in Montreux, Switzerland in February 1980.

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