Kokoschka, Oskar

(1886-1980)
   artist and writer; while he rejected the label Expressionist,* his work reflected the movement's spirit. Born in Poch-larn an der Donau, Austria,* he passed a destitute childhood in Vienna before studying at the city's Kunstgewerbeschule in 1905-1909. As a student, he wrote his first drama and poetry while joining an artists' group centered on Gustav Klimt. In 1909 he became a freelance artist for Vienna's Werkstatten. From the 1908 Kunstschau exhibition of his first work, he encountered a public response more violent than that accorded fellow modernists: "chief of the savages," the press claimed, "a Gauguin gone mad." Such protest earned him rapid accep-tance by Vienna's avant-garde, especially by architect Adolf Loos. The outrage at the 1909 performance of his play Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, hope of women) was such that Loos sent him to Switzerland. In 1910 he met Herwarth Walden,* a Berliner who was then establishing both a journal and gallery named Sturm. Walden signed him to a contract as the journal's illustrator. Berlin,* more open to avant-garde art than Vienna, granted Kokoschka wide recognition. In 1911 he began exhibiting with the Brücke. Upon returning to Vienna as Walden's foreign editor, he initiated a passionate affair with Alma Mahler that lasted until 1914 and generated many of his best paintings.
   Gravely wounded on the Eastern Front in 1916, Kokoschka spent more than a year recuperating in a Viennese hospital. A well-respected artist after the war, he returned to Germany and continued his work with Sturm. In 1920 he took a position with Dresden's Kunstakademie. He was equally successful as a writer; his plays were staged by Max Reinhardt* and set to music* by Paul Hindemith.* But Kokoschka was unable to lead a "normal life" with normal relationships (students called him "mad Kokoschka"); in 1924 he suddenly resigned and set out to paint the cities of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Back in Vienna in 1931, he accepted appointment in 1934 at Prague's Art Academy. He fled to London in 1938 and resided from 1953 on Lake Geneva.
   REFERENCES:Barron, "Degenerate Art"; Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Kokoschka, My Life; Schorske, Fin-de-Siecle Vienna; Selz, German Expressionist Paint-ing.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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