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Oskar Kokoschka, Works on Paper: The Early Years, 1897–1917

Oskar Kokoschka, Works on Paper: The Early Years, 1897–1917

Contributions by Alice Strobl and Alfred Weidinger
Published in 1994
248 pages, fully illustrated

This book, the catalogue to an exhibition presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, showcases the extraordinary drawings, watercolors, and lithographs of Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980), one of Expressionism's leading figures. Also included in the catalogue is a wide range of Kokoschka's works on paper, beginning with a delicately rendered drawing recently discovered in a girl's student sketchbook as well as academic nudes, drawn while Kokoschka was enrolled at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) from 1904 to 1908. It was during this period that he made his first professional works—charming postcards and fans for the influential Wiener Werkstätte. These decorative works soon gave way to his more mature style, characterized by a masterly command of draftsmanship and an often violent subject matter that plumbs the depths of the human psyche, instinct, and myth. This volume includes a broad section of works from the years when Kokoschka was at the height of his artistic powers, creating deeply charged portraits, figure studies, and dramatic illustrations based on the literary works he authored. It concludes with examples from an important series of war drawings inspired by the artist's experiences as a soldier during World War I.

The beautifully produced color plates in this catalogue are illuminated by a scholarly essay by Alice Strobl and Alfred Weidinger, who have pursued Kokoschka's works on paper in greater depth than any other art historians. A detailed account of the development of the artist's career until 1917, their text offers compelling evidence that has led to dozens of reattributions and redatings, making this book a required addition to any art library.


They generated a variety of responses from the critics . . . . Art Historian Richard Muther (1860–1909), writing in the June 6, 1908 issue of the Vienna newspaper Die Zei, added:

There are two rooms on the side with decorative furniture. The enfant terrible here is Kokoschka. Because premature success here has damaged many young artists (he sold everything he is showing on the first day), it would be pedagogically advisable to slow down. Therefore, Herr Kokoschka, your tapestry designs are despicable: Oktoberfest fairgrounds, raw Indian art, ethnographic museum, Gauguin gone crazy–what do I know. And yet, I can't help myself: I haven't seen a more interesting debut in years. The thing is, this enfant terrible is a true child, absolutely not a poseur, no, he's a good boy. He explained the meaning of his pictures to me himself, with a naïveté that's not of his time. And while I listened to him, with his awkward gestures and childlike utterances, I said to myself inwardly: There's something real and fresh here, something elemental that demands expression . . . . I'll have to remember the name Kokoschka. Because anyone who can be such a cannibal at twenty-two might be a very original, serious artist at thirty.

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