Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980) was a major Expressionist painter, printmaker, and writer. Born in Pöchlarn, Austria, he studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna. Despite early criticism of his work, Kokoschka’s portraits were eventually recognized for the sensitivity with which he depicted the personality of his subjects and for his signature style which used vibrant colors and expressive brushstrokes to convey emotion. After recovering from wounds he sustained in World War I, Kokoschka traveled extensively and painted a series of lyrical landscapes and cityscapes as seen from above. Kokoschka moved to Prague in 1935 and then to England in 1938 in response to the growing power of the Nazis who classified his work as “degenerate art.” In England he created a number of large paintings with antiwar themes. After the World War II, he settled in Switzerland and painted a series of works based on mythology.
A prolific printmaker, Kokoschka made over 500 prints during his career. His graphic work includes designs for posters and postcards in addition to print portfolios and illustrations for books. Some of his important print portfolios are O Eternity – Thou Word of Thunder (Bach Cantata) (1916) and Homage to Hellas (1961). In 1963 he designed the sets and costumes for a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Un Ballo in Maschera at the Teatro Comunale in Florence, and this work was issued as a portfolio in 1967.
His illustrated books include works written by his contemporaries, such as Tubutsch (1946) by Albert Ehrenstein, as well as several of his own plays, such as Murderer, Hope of Women (1916). Later in his career, Kokoschka illustrated editions of classic works including Shakespeare’s King Lear (1963) and Aristophanes’ The Frogs (1968).
Books by Oskar Kokoschka available from Boreas Fine Art:
Kokoschka, Oskar. Le Bal Masqué. Zurich: E. Gloor/Chez Wolfensberger. 1967.
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