Oskar Kokoschka, Die Prometheus Saga, 1950.
Oskar Kokoschka (1886 –1980) is regarded today as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His enduring legacy for artistic production from the post-war period to the present day is beyond dispute and yet enigmatic: on a continent riven by two world wars, in which realistic art had become discredited, here was someone unashamedly arguing for the recognition of figurative art. Throughout his life, he believed in the inclusive power of an art far removed from state propaganda, and this is reflected in all his oeuvre. In Kokoschka’s own words: ‘Official art is always kitsch, because it serves the anonymous customer, and thus the experience is eliminated.’ – ‘It may be that the contemporary flight from representation has less to do with the inability to design than a shrivelling of the capacity for experience.’
The exhibition is designed as a retrospective, with around 150 works covering all phases of Kokoschka’s artistic career. It also presents the techniques Kokoschka used, such as oil painting, pastel, drawing, watercolour and print, as well as his plays, stage and costume designs. The Kunsthaus Zürich played an important role in Kokoschka’s career from an early stage and he is correspondingly well represented in the collection, with around ten oil paintings including masterpieces such as ‘Amorous Couple with a Cat’ (1917). He spent the last 27 years of his life in Switzerland, and large parts of his artistic estate are to be found in Vevey and Zurich as well as Vienna. The last Kokoschka retrospective in Switzerland was at the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1986. It is high time, therefore, to reacquaint both a younger generation and some long-standing admirers with the spectacular originals of this expressionistic painter and his unique brushwork.
(Photo: © Fondation Oskar Kokoschka, Vevey / 2017 ProLitteris, Zurich)