Born. 01.03.1886 in Pöchlarn, Niederösterreich
Died. 22.02.1980 in Montreux,
Austrian painter, graphic artist, expressionist, Viennese modernism
About the artist
Oskar Kokoschka was born on 1 March 1886 in Pöchlarn Austria. He school in 1897, learning science and language. Although he intended to concentrate on chemistry, he soon lost interest and acquired a love for art, especially primitive and exotic art that was being featured in exhibits in Europe.
Kokoschka moved to Berlin in 1910, the same year the Neue Secession art group was established as a rebellion against the older Secession group. Although he was not a follower of their beliefs and values, he admired their sense of community. Kokoschka was employed as an illustrator by Herwarth Walden, a publisher and art critic for his magazine Der Sturm. In its first year, Kokoschka produced twenty-eight drawings and was often a contributor to the periodical. The twentieth Issue of the periodical featured both Kokoschka’s first cover illustration and his first literary contribution.
In 1912, Kokoschka had a passionate affair with Alma Mahler for two years. Alma rejected him, explaining that she was afraid of being too overcome with passion. She married Walter Gropius, a Berlin architect, in 1915 and lived with him until their divorce in 1920. Kokoschka never stopped loving Alma Mahler and even commissioned a life-sized female doll in 1918. Although intended to simulate Alma and receive his affection, the ‘Alma doll’ did not satisfy Kokoschka and he destroyed it during a party. The Bride of the Wind (The Tempest; 1913), is expressive of their relationship.
During the First World War, he served as a cavalryman in the Austrian army. He was so seriously wounded in 1915 that the doctors declared him mentally unstable. He continued to develop his career as an artist after the war, travelling across Europe and painting landscapes.
In 1919, Kokoschka began teaching at the Kunstakademie Dresden.
In 1931 Kokoschka returned to the home he had purchased for his parents eleven years earlier in Vienna which he used as a studio. Kokoschka accepted a commission by the Social Democratic City Council, ‘Red Vienna,’ for a painting that would be hung inside the Rathaus, or City Hall.
As with all many artists during this time Kokoschka was labeled a “degenerate” by the Nazis, he left Austria in 1934 and headed for Prague. He obtained Czechoslovak citizenship in 1935, and in 1938, when the Czechs began to prepare for the German invasion, he fled to the United Kingdom and remained there during the war.
Kokoschka naturalised as a British subject on 21 February 1947 and travelled briefly to the United States in the same year before settling in Villeneuve, Switzerland in 1953, where he lived the rest of his life. He worked as a teacher at the Internationale Sommer Akademie für Bildenden Künste, while publishing his writings and working on stage designs at the same time.
A retrospective of Kokoschka’s work was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London in 1962.
In 1966 he won the competition for the commissioned portrait of Konrad Adenauer for the German Bundestag against his competitor Eugen Denzel.
Kokoschka was 93 when he died on 22 February 1980 in Montreux, after contracting influenza.