Oskar Kokoschka

37
Oskar Kokoschka bigraphy, stories - British artist

Oskar Kokoschka : biography

1 March 1886 – 12 February 1980

Oskar Kokoschka (1 March 188622 February 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes.

Writings

Kokoschka’s literary works are as peculiar and interesting as his art. His memoir, A Sea Ringed with Visions, is as wildly psychedelic as anything written by others under the influence of actual hallucinogens. His short play "Murderer, the Hope of Women" (1909, set ten years later by Paul Hindemith as Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen) is often called the first Expressionist drama. His Orpheus und Eurydike (1918) became an opera by Ernst Krenek, who was first approached for incidental music.

Bibliography

  • 1908: Die traumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Youths) Vienna: Wiener Werkstätte (Originally published in an edition of 500 by the Wiener Werkstätte. Unsold copies numbered 1-275, were reissued in 1917 by Kurt Wolff Verlag.)
  • 1909: Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, the Hope of Women) (Play)
  • 1913: Der Gefesslte Columbus(Columbus Bound). [Berlin]: Fritz Gurlitt, [1913] (known as Der Weisse Tiertoter (The White Animal Slayer).
  • 1919: Orpheus and Eurydike, in: Vier Dramen: Orpheus und Eurydike; Der brennende Dornbusch; Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen; [and] Hiob. Berlin
  • 1962: A Sea Ringed with Visions. London: Thames & Hudson ISBN 978-0-500-01014-3 (Autobiography)
  • 1974: My Life; translated (from "Mein Leben") by David Britt. London: Thames & Hudson ISBN 0-500-01087-0

First productions of plays

  • 1907: Sphinx und Strohmann. Komödie für Automaten. 29 March 1909 at Cabaret Fledermaus, Vienna
  • 1909: Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen
  • 1911: Der brennende Dornbusch
  • 1913: Sphinx und Strohmann, Ein Curiosum. 14 April 1917 in the Dada-Galerie, Zürich
  • 1917: Hiob (an enlarged version of Sphinx und Strohmann, 1907)
  • 1919: Orpheus und Eurydike
    • 1923: new version as opera libretto; music by Ernst Krenek. 27 November 1926 at the Staatstheater, Kassel
  • 1936–38/1972: Comenius

Biography

He was born in Pöchlarn, second child to Gustav Josef Kokoschka and Maria Romana Kokoschka. His older brother died in infancy in 1887; he had a sister, Berta (born in 1889) and a brother, Bohuslav (born in 1892). Oskar had a strong belief in omens, spurred by a story of a fire breaking out in Pöchlarn shortly after his mother gave birth to him. Kokoschka’s life was not easy mainly due to a lack of financial help from his father. They constantly moved into smaller flats, farther and farther from the thriving center of the town. Concluding that his father was inadequate, Kokoschka drew closer to his mother; he felt that he was the head of the household and continued to support his family when he gained wealth. Kokoschka entered secondary school at Realschule, where emphasis was placed on the study of modern subjects such as science and language. Kokoschka was not interested in his subjects, as he found he only excelled in art, and spent most of his time reading classic literature during his lessons. This education of classic literature is said to have influenced his artwork.

One of Kokoschka’s professors suggested he pursue a career in fine art. Against his father’s will, Kokoschka applied to Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) in Vienna, where he was one of three accepted out of 153 applicants. Kunstgewerbeschule was an extremely progressive school that focused mainly on architecture, furniture, crafts and modern design. Unlike the more prestigious and traditional Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, Kunstgewerbeschule was dominated by instructors of the Vienna Secession. Kokoschka studied there from 1904 to 1909, and was influenced by his professor Carl Otto Czeschka in developing an original style.

Among Kokoschka’s early works were gesture drawings of children, which portrayed them as awkward and corpse-like. Kokoschka had no formal training in painting and so approached the medium without regard to the "traditional" or "correct" way to paint. The teachers at Kunstgewerbeschule helped Kokoschka gain opportunities through the Wiener Werkstätte or Viennese Workshops. Kokoschka’s first commissions were postcards and drawings for children. Kokoschka said that it gave him "the basis of [his] artistic training". His early career was marked by portraits of Viennese celebrities, painted in a nervously animated style.