Oskar Kokoschka (Austrian, 1886–1980) was a writer and artist, known as a pioneer of Expressionist painting. Born in the town of Pöchlarn, Kokoschka studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna. In 1908, the artist displayed works at the Vienna Art Show that were considered so disturbing, he was dismissed from school.
His first solo show was held at the Galerie Paul Cassirer, Berlin, in 1910, followed later that year by another at the Folkwang Museum in Essen. In 1910, he also began to contribute to Herwarth Walden’s avant-garde publication Der Sturm, and divided his time between Berlin and Vienna over the next four years. During this time, Kokoschka focused on painting portraits of celebrities, executed in a wildly energetic style. In 1915, he enlisted in the army, and was seriously wounded on the eastern front. He settled in Dresden in 1917 to recover, and, two years later, accepted a position at the academy there.
During the 1920 and 1930s, Kokoschka traveled widely in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, and executed a number of landscapes in watercolor. In 1931, he returned to Vienna but, as a result of the Nazis’ growing power, relocated to Prague in 1935. In 1937, his work was declared “degenerate art” by the Nazis, and removed from public institutions. The artist then fled to England in 1938, and held his first solo show in the United States that same year at the Buchholz Gallery in New York.
In 1953, he moved to Villeneuve, near Geneva, and began teaching at the Internationale Sommer Akademie für Bildenden Künste. Kokoschka’s collected writings were published in 1956, and around this time he became involved in stage design. In 1962, he was given a retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London.
Kokoschka died in Montreux, Switzerland.
Today, his works can be found in institutions around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Folkwang Museum, and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in Spain.