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Kokoschka’s work is wildly expressive and very original is its style points. He jumps from sketchy paint brush work to highly detailed rendering within inches of each other and it works beautifully. His influence on others is no accident.
Oskar Kokoschka (1 March 1886 – 22 February 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes. Kokoschka was born in Pöchlarn. His early career was marked by portraits of Viennese celebrities, painted in a nervously animated style. He served in the Austrian army in World War I and was wounded. At the hospital, the doctors decided that he was mentally unstable. Nevertheless, he continued to develop his career as an artist, traveling across Europe and painting the landscape.
Kokoschka had a passionate, often stormy affair with Alma Mahler, shortly after the death of her four-year-old daughter Maria Mahler and her affair with Walter Gropius. After several years together, Alma rejected him, explaining that she was afraid of being too overcome with passion. He continued to love her his entire life, and one of his greatest works The Bride of the Wind (The Tempest), is a tribute to her. His poem Allos Markar was inspired by this relationship. The poet Georg Trakl visited the studio while Kokoschka was painting this masterpiece. Kokoschka also commissioned a life-sized female doll in 1918. Although intended to simulate Alma and receive his affection, the gynoid-Alma did not satisfy Kokoschka and he destroyed it during a party.
Deemed a degenerate by the Nazis, Kokoschka fled Austria in 1934 for Prague. In Prague his name was adopted by a group of other expatriate artists, the Oskar-Kokoschka-Bund (OKB), though he declined to otherwise participate. In 1938, when the Czechs began to mobilize for the expected invasion of the Wehrmacht, he fled to the United Kingdom and remained there during the war. With the help of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Refugee Trust Fund), all members of the OKB were able to escape through Polandand Sweden.
During World War II, Oskar Kokoschka and his wife lived in Ullapool, a village along the Wester Ross of Scotland for several summer months. There he drew with colored pencil (a technique he developed in Scotland), and painted many local landscape views in watercolour.
Kokoschka became a British citizen in 1946 and only in 1978 would regain Austrian citizenship. He traveled briefly to the United States in 1947 before settling in Switzerland, where he lived the rest of his life. He died in Montreux.
Kokoschka had much in common with his contemporary Max Beckmann. Both maintained their independence from German Expressionism, yet they are now regarded as its supreme masters, who delved deeply into the art of past masters to develop unique individual styles. Their individualism left them both orphaned from the main movements of Twentieth Century modernism. Both wrote eloquently of the need to develop the art of “seeing” (Kokoschka emphasized depth perception while Beckmann was concerned with mystical insight into the invisible realm), and both were masters of innovative oil painting techniques anchored in earlier traditions.
Kokoschka’s last years were somewhat embittered, as he found himself marginalized as a curious footnote to art history. A noteworthy student of Kokoschka’s “School of Seeing” was Konrad Juestel (1924–2001).