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born: 1886 Pöchlarn, Austria
died: 198o Montreux, Switzerland

Oskar Kokoschka grew up in the rich cultural climate of Vienna shortly after the turn of the century. While studying at the School of Decorative Arts he became familiar with the work of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and maintained contact with the designer Josef Hoffmann, in whose Wiener Werkstätte he took on commissions from 1907, and whose assistant he became in 1911. At this period Kokoschka also began writing Expressionist poetry and plays. In 1910 he was called to Berlin as a contributor to Herwarth Walden's journal, Der Sturm. Kokoschka's eariy phase, marked by psychologically penetrating characterizations of individuals, extended to an Italian journey undertaken in 1913 with Alma Mahler, which led to a new emphasis on color. The reason for the great influence Kokoschka exerted on twentiethcentury portraiture is evident from his two early portraits, of Berlin poet Peter Baum (1869-1916) and of actress Tilla Durieux, who was born in Vienna (1880-1971). Both were members of the Sturm circle. The painter attempted to capture his sitters as comprehensively as possible, observing not only their physiognomy and clothing but typical gestures and anything that would reflect their way of thinking and behaving. The complexity of these observations necessitated a degree of abstraction which, in Kokoschka's hands, became truly radical. racial features were transformed, contours and interior detailing became symbolically charged, graphic abbreviations. Passages of juxtaposed or interpenetrating color were used to evoke characteristic moods. The sitter is brought to life by means of a paint surface built up of three layers: an agitated background, consisting of veils or lava-like flows of paint; then, emerging from this, an incipient form, composed of rough, loosely juxtaposed paint textures; and finally, a third layer, frequently made up of thin strokes of black or color, or - as in the portrait of baum - of marks scratched into the wet paint to give final definitian. In 1917 Kokoschka was wounded in the war. He came to Dresden, where from 1919 to 1924 he held a professorship at the academy. This period saw an emphasis an large compositions of several figures, done in strong, brilliant colors often applied to the canvas in broad strokes of the spatula. The artist's friends from Dresden intellectual circles modelled for these paintings - in the case of The Heathens (1918), actress Käthe Richter and poet Walter Hasendever. They appear as lovers, nude, reclining in an embrace, surrounded by a vortex of green, blue, and yellow. The longing expressed here for an exotic, paradisiacal life seems tempered by an ironit stab at the blase morals of a dericalist society. Kokoschka's concurrent landscapes are likewise suffused with swirls and patches of uncontoured, luminous paint. Dresden Neustadt III is part of a series of cityscapes depicting the panorama of the Elbe River bank across from his academy studio at Brühl's Terrace. The view is transfigured into a mosaic of brilliant colors, regularly structured in the rendering ofthe architecture, but entering an agitated flux in the sky and water. The dominating bright blues convey the feeling of a hot summer day. The View of Cologne, done in 1956, shows Kokoschka's predilection for a high vantage point in depicting urban scenes. The style of his late cityscapes is characterized by the rendering of architecture in vibrant, slashing strokes, whose detail is set off by extensive areas of light color in which remnants of paint are scumbled over the surface to create an effect of shimmering air and light. Dominating the vibrant city center are the outstanding landmarks of Cologne, the Cathedral and the Rhine Bridge.

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