Oskar Kokoschka: Hot prints at an advanced age
Curator and author: Eva Bendová
Veletržní Palace, 3rd floor
The Graphic Cabinet in the Veletržní Palace presents a cross-section of Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka's lithography work. Kokoschka was a vital and creative man, a painter, graphic artist and author until age 94. Lithography occupied a special place in his work from the time early in his career when he illustrated his texts with the cycle The Dreaming Boys (1906-1908). Kokoschka "advocated a certain programme from the very start". The print Variation on a Single Theme or Concert, which he did soon after World War I is the best example of such a programmatic cycle. The portrait of a woman listening to music, done systematically in several variations, led to Kokoschka's later portraits painted in London and Switzerland. (The Vienna-based Kokoschka found asylum in Prague in 1934, but emigrated to England four years later, and settled in Switzerland for good in 1953.) Kokoschka's programmatic thinking and consistent cyclic graphic work are documented in a number of artistically experimental portraits and self-portraits (Self-portrait from Two Sides, 1923). From the 1950s on, he increasingly converted his travel-related drawings into lithographs, such as "urban sceneries" and motifs from the cultural landscape of Greece, the key cradle of human civilisation for Kokoschka (Homage to Hellas, 1961). He published his instantaneous perceptions of various situations as lithograph albums (Hamburg, 1961; Manhattan, 1966; London As Seen from the Thames, 1967). The idea of travel permeates Kokoschka's entire later oeuvre "carrying a sense of something permanent". It yielded the lithograph series Odysseus in 1965. "I almost identified with the figure of Odysseus," confessed Kokoschka in his autobiography My Life. The lithograph with the motif of Christopher done in the same year was also related to the symbolic understanding of a journey as both destiny and mission. In addition to St James, the spiritual tradition of Catholic Europe sees Saint Christopher as a patron saint and guardian of pilgrims. Kokoschka's graphic pictorial messages and testimonies increased in number in the late 1950s. He combined the excitement of shared vision with the drama of Europe's cultural history in his late work. The National Gallery in Prague owns 18 of Kokoschka's paintings, four drawings and 137 prints.