Oskar Kokoschka

(1886—1980) artist and writer

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Austrian-born expressionist painter, best known for his searching portraits.

Kokoschka studied at the Vienna School of Arts (1904–09) at the time when Sigmund Freud was developing his theories of psychoanalysis in Vienna. Other early influences were French symbolism and the prevailing art nouveau style. But in Kokoschka's paintings the decorative lines of this style soon gave way to more expressive drawing in portraits that reveal the artist's quest for the subject's innermost soul. In Portrait of Auguste Forrel (1910), for example, the subject's head and hands, upon which the picture concentrates intensely, are a complex of exaggerated linear details. In 1910 Kokoschka moved to Berlin, where he played an important part in the development of German expressionism. During this period he did graphic illustrations and his paintings became richer in colour. In 1914 he produced the first of his allegorical pictures, The Bride of the Wind.

After World War I, in which he was wounded, Kokoschka moved to Dresden, where he became a professor at the Dresden Academy in 1920 but left abruptly in 1924 to spend seven years travelling. Contact with impressionist paintings in Paris led to a more exuberant use of colour in the landscapes and townscapes of this period. In 1937 he painted Self Portrait of a Degenerate Artist after the Nazis had condemned his work. He fled to London in 1938, becoming a British citizen in 1947, but left in 1953 to settle in Switzerland.

Subjects: Art.

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