Kokoschka, Oskar

BORN 1 Mar 1886, Pöchlarn an der Donau, Niederösterreich - DIED 22 Feb 1980, Villeneuve, Vaud (near Montreux)
GRAVE LOCATION Clarens, Vaud: Cimetière

Important painter of expressionism. Son of a Czech father and an Austrian mother. His father came from a family of goldsmiths, but he was employed as a commercial traveller. Soon after his brith the family settled in Vienna and here Oskar grew up. Helped by a state scholarship he was educated at the Kunstgewerbeschule.

He was influenced by the work of Hodler, Van Gogh and Romako and soon he was able to earn his own living. He had his first exhibition in 1909 and soon afterwards left school. Kokoschka worked for the workshops in Vienna and received his first commissions for portraits through his friend the architect Alfred Loos.

In 1910 he left for Berlin where he worked for Herberth Walden, publisher of Der Sturm. In Berlin he also met Alma Mahler, who became his mistress after Gustav Mahler's death in 1911. By 1912 he was famous in the art world and he travelled with Alma to Italy and Vienna. They seperated after she had an abortion in 1914. The First World War was raging and in 1915 he enrolled in the Austrian army. At the Eastern Front he was wounded and afterwards he was discharged.

In 1917 he followed the actress Käthe Richter from Berlin to Dresden, where he recuperated from his injuries at the Weisser Hirsch sanatorium. Richter sat for many of his paintings. His friend the poet Walter Hasenclever was in Dresden at the same time and Richter and Hasenclever are both depicted on "The Friends" (1917/1918) and on "The Heathens" (1918). Later Kokoschka became professor at the Academy (1919-1924) and in Dresden he met Max Beckmann and Otto Müller.

In 1922-1923 he took part in the Biennale in Venice. By 1924 his health had improved and he became restless. He resigned his post at the Academy by handing a note to the porter and leaving the city. The following years he travelled extensively in Europe, the Mid-East and Northern-Africa. In 1931 he had an exhibition that was very successful in both Mannheim and Paris. In 1932 he exhibited once more at the Venice Biennale, but Mussolini made it clear that he didn't like his work.

When the Nazis came to power Kokoschka moved to Prague. In 1937 there was a major exhibition of his work at the Osterreiches Museum für Kunst und Industrie, but at the same time it was removed from museums in Germany. Seven of his paintings were shown at the "Degenerate Art" exhibition in Munich in 1937. In 1938 Prague wasn't safe anymore and he emigrated to England together with Olga Palkowska (1915-2004), whom he married in 1941. In 1947 Kokoschka became a British citizen, but in 1953 he moved to Switzerland with Olga. He continued working and travelling until old age.

Related persons
• influenced Bellmer, Hans
• knew Bergner, Elisabeth
• painted Durieux, Tilla
• was a friend of Hasenclever, Walter
• was influenced by Klimt, Gustav
• was the lover of Mahler, Alma
• was a friend of Pinthus, Kurt
• was influenced by Romako, Anton
• was a friend of Welz, Friedrich Maximilian
• was a friend of Yeats, Jack Butler


The grave of Oskar Kokoschka at the cemetery in Clarens, Vaud.
Picture by Androom (05 Dec 2007)


'Veronica's Veil'.
(Budapest: Szépmüvészeti Múzeum)

'Bildnis Professor Forel'.
   (1910, Mannheim: Kunsthalle)

"Baron Victor von Dirsztay".
   (1910/1911, Hannover: Sprengel Museum)

"Die Windsbraut".
   (1914, Basel: Kunstmuseum)

   (1917, Wuppertal: Von der Heydt-museum)

"Selbstbildnis mit gekreuzten Armen".
   (1923, Chemnitz: Museum Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz)

Kolb, Annette

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 16 May 2020