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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / German Expressionism / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists

Oskar Kokoschka (Austria, 1886-1980, England): Original Lithographs 2

Kokoschka / Kokoschka 2 / Kokoschka 3 / Kokoschka 4
German Expressionism: Portaits / Lovers / Society

"Käthe Kollwitz and German Expressionism" featured over fifty works by Käthe Kollwitz plus additional works by Josef Albers,
Ernst Barlach, Rudolf Bauer, Max Beckmann, Peter Behrens, Heinrich Campendonck, Marc Chagall, Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix,
Lyonel Feininger,Conrad Felixmuller, Hans Fronius, Alfons Graber, Otto Greiner, Georg Grosz, Erich Heckel, Hannah Hoch,
Karl Hofer, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Ludwig Meidner, Edvard Munch,
Gabrielle Munter, Heinrich Nauen, Emile Nolde, Max Pechstein, Hilla von Rebay, Georges Rouault, Rudolf Schlichter,
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Siegfried Schott, Georg Tappert, Wilhelm Wagner, and others.

German Expressionist Drawings

The Russians: Chagall, Sonia Delaunay, Goncharova, Larionov, and Malevich
Der gefesselte Kolumbus / The Bound Columbus is one of the most important print cycles of the Expressionist era. Born out of what Kokoschka in his 1971 autobiography My Life (trans, David Britt [NY: Macmillan, 1974]) described as “an exceedingly passionate relationship, which lasted three years [1911-1914]” (73) with Alma Mahler, herself a musician and the widow of Gustav Mahler. From this affair came twelve lithographs accompanied by a text by Kokoschka. In a 1966 interview (published in Kokoschka Lithographs [London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1966], 9-14), Kokoschka said “Columbus Chained is me again, of course, and in this sense the title is symbolic—bound by a woman, whose features I have depicted on the title page (Alma Mahler, of course). My Columbus ventures out not to discover America but to recognize a woman who binds him in chains. At the end she appears to him as a love-ghost, moon woman” (quoted in Robin Reisenfeld, The German Print Portfolio 1890-1930: Serials for a Private Sphere [Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum, University of Chicago, 1992; the show circulated during 1992-93, beginning at the Detroit Institute of Arts, traveling to The Tampa Museum of Art and the Katonah Museum of Art, and ending at the Smart Museum], 50-59; quoted from 51. The work illustrates all 12 lithographs, which are also catalogued and illustrated in H. M. Wingler and F. Welz, Oskar Kokoschka: Das druckgraphische Werk (Salzburg: Galerie Welz, 1975), the standard catalogue raisonné of Kokoschka’s prints as nn. 43-54 and in Bruce Davis, German Expressionist Prints and Drawings. The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for Expressionist Studies, Vol. 2: Catalogue of the Collection (Los Angeles: L.A. County Museum of Art, 1989) as 1562: 1-12). The work was first published in 1916 in an edition of 200 portfolios, 50 with all of the lithographs pencil-signed (one with a full signature, the others with his initials) and 150 with only one lithograph signed (Berlin: Fritz Gurlitt, 1916). In 1921 a second edition was published, also by Gurlitt, consisting of 50 portfolios on buff Zanders paper (measuring approximately 495x385mm) numbered from I/L to L/L with all of the lithographs pencil signed and 70 on white Zanders paper with one lithograph signed. Ours is from the 1921 Gurlitt Roman-numeraled edition with all lithographs signed in pencil. The first lithograph is signed “Oskar Kokoschka” and the remaining ones are signed “O.K.” in pencil and most also in the stone. The entire series was also included in a show at the William Benton Museum of Art, The University of Connecticut, in 1977 with an exhibition catalogue by Richard S. Field then of the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University (now Director of the Yale University Art Museum). The entire series was included in the Kokoschka print retrospective at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, in 1976, and is illustrated in the catalogue of the show, Oskar Kokoschka: das Druckgraphische Werk 1906-1975. Recently, Alma Mahler’s life, with a special focus on her affair with Kokoschka was the focus of The Bride of the Wind, a movie named after a 1915 painting of her by Kokoschka.

Although the series is normally dated as 1913, in My Life, Kokoschka notes that in 1916, while on convalescent leave from the Austrian Army, he went to Berlin where, in 1916, “Walden had given me a major one-man show at the Galerie Der Sturm, including The Bride of the Wind, which had paid for my horse a year or so before. . . . By this time, Fritz Gurlitt had published my two series of lithographs, Columbus Bound and Bach Cantata, which I had drawn on stone shortly before the outbreak of war [in August 1914]” (99). A letter of April 1913 to Alma Mahler sent from Vienna talks about his feeling that he has grown in artistic power and indicates that he has begun the work: "The two of us with a very strong, peaceful expression, hand in hand, on the edge within a semicircle sea, lit be Bengal fire, water-tower, mountains, lightning and moon—until the details of the individual features recrystallized in my idea for expressing the mood that I wanted at the first and have now lived through again—a solemn vow! In the midst of the confusions of nature one person trusting eternally in another, and making himself and the other secure through faith. All that's left now is purely poetic work, putting more life into individual places, as I've made so sure of the fundamental mood and dimension of expression that it won't leave me groping around in uncertainty any more. In the book, I've now got twelve of the drawings ready, but not yet traced. I've done none of the text yet. . . . I used to be too subjective, and I was always tempted to find my inner self in the exterior and dissipate my imagination on other people and on life. That's why my work is now more powerful and less arbitrary, as if seen by another person, and illuminated from outside. The most fundamental in me is coming uppermost, and the transient, the sensational, is dispersing, because it can't adversely influence what is essential to me" (Oskar Kokoschka Letters 1905-1976, Selected by Olda Kokoschka and Alfred Marnau [London: Thames and Hudson, 1992). 37, 39). From this letter, it seems likely that the series was begun in 1913 but not finished until late 1913 or 1914.

Robin Reisenfeld suggests that in The Bound Columbus, Kokoschka presents "a universalized account of their tense and conflicted affair, with Kokoschka and his lover representing the archetypal Man and Woman" and sees the work as "a visual narrative of the spiritual redemption of Woman through the martyrdom of Man. Throughout the series, Man appears both heroic and independent at the same time that he is physically bound by his desire to Woman. Woman is Eve, the temptress, but similarly dependent upon man" (50). For Reisenfeld, the work does not relate "a conventional narrative but . . . reveal[s] through a sequence of images the ongoing struggle between Man and Woman." (51).
Das Geschict des Weibes / The Face of the Woman (Wingler-Welz 43, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 1). Signed "OK" in the stone and in pencil with the full signature. This portrait of Alma Mahler is illustrated in many books. Image size: 207x336mm. Price: SOLD
Der neue Kolumbus und der Heilige Georg / The New Columbus and St. George (Wingler-Welz 44, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 2). Signed "OK" in the stone and in pencil. Kokoschka portrays himself as bound by the chains of his desire to the Woman who stoops to kiss his hand while he looks over his shoulder at St. George striding towards his destiny. Image size: 325x326mm. Price: SOLD.
Das jungste Gericht / The Last Judgment (Wingler-Welz 45, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 3). Signed "OK" in the stone and in pencil. A nude female Death dances around a coffin holding a human skeleton. Image size: 325x282mm. Price: $3250.
Der Weg ins Grab / The Road to the Grave (Wingler-Welz 46, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 4). Signed "OK" in the stone and in pencil. This work shows a man half in the grave while in the background a reclining couple embrace and a wolf howls. Image size: 220x193mm. Price: $3250.
Das Paar im Kerzenlicht Gericht / Couple in Candlelight (Wingler-Welz 47, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 5). Signed "OK" in the stone and in pencil. The Woman (Alma Mahler) stretches out her hand which holds a candle towards the moon while the Man (Kokoschka in uniform) stands behind her. Image size: 329x263mm. Price: $3250.
Der Apfel der Eva / The Apple of Eve (Wingler-Welz 48, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 6). Signed "OK" in the stone and in pencil. This work shows a man (Kokoschka) reaching toward an apple offered by the Woman (Mahler). A crescent-shaped moon (representing sexual desire) is visible in the sky above. Image size: 220x193mm. Price: $3750.
Am Scheidewegge / At the Crossroads (Wingler-Welz 49, Davis-Rifkind 1562: 7). Signed "OK" in pencil. The Man, holding a candle, starts through a door and gestures back to the Woman to follow. Image size: 363x265mm. Price: $3250.

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