Artist: Oskar Kokoschka

Date of Birth:
1886
Date of Death:
1980
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Made six extended trips to Galloway between 1941 and 1946. Visited Elrig near Port William.

Education:

Vienna School of Industrial Art

Professional Bodies:

Hon RA 1970

Bibliography:

Oskar Kokoschka Letters 1905-1976, Olda Kokoschka and Alfred Marnau, London, 1992. My Life, Oskar Kokoschka, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974. Kokoschka and Scotland, Richard Calvocoressi, Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland, 1990.

Notes:

Letters from Port William: 4 May 1944, 18 August 1944, 6 September 1945, another undated, 7 September 1946. In the letter of 18 August 1944 to Jack and Mina Carney he states that having enjoyed a month in Ullapool "Unfortunately they give you a bill after a month, therefore we landed again at Korner’s always hospitable house. It has the snag in that it continually rains here. While I did many sketches in Ullapool, I could do nothing at all here so far" (see bibliography – Letters). He describes how he does not eat the game in Scotland "When I paint I identify with my subjects; how then could I eat them afterwards?". Also describes the eccentric hunters he painted. (see bibliography – My Life p167). His Zrani (summer 1938-40) oil on canvas 68.3 by 89.2 cms, is at the Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. There is a photograph of Oskar and Olda Kokoschka in Wigtownshire, late summer, 1942 (see bibliography – Calvocoressi, p8).


Oscar Kokoschka first came to Scotland in August 1929 to holiday in Morayshire with Kurt and Rudolph Hahn some four years before the latter left Germany to found Gordostoun School. As with Jankel Adler a pioneering schoolmaster had been involved in Kokoschka’s introduction to the country.

Kokoschka, an outspoken critic of the Nazis and supporter of persecuted German Jewish artists had left his native Austria in 1934. Along with many others he was labelled a degenerate artist and 8 of his works were shown at the exhibition of degenerate art in Munich in the summer of 1937. His response was to produce his fine self-portrait of a “degenerate artist,” which he completed at the home of the Czech economist and industrialist Emil Korner.

In 1938 the Korners came to the UK settling near Port William in Wigtownshire. Kokoshka managed to leave soon after and came to London. In 1941 Kokoschka and his wife Olda were invited to stay with the Korners and spent several weeks at Port William. This was the first of six visits, which Kokoschka made to Galloway between 1941 and 1946. Richard Calvocoressi wrote in Kokoschka and Scotland: “Were it not for these extended periods in Scotland – a total of 46 weeks in five years – it is likely that Kokoschka’s dejection would have got the better of him.”

Here he was able to forget the war for a while and regain his contact with nature, painting again in watercolour and using a new medium to him, the coloured pencil. But the war was never far away and on his return to London he completed his celebrated anti-war painting Loreley, which began life as a straightforward view of the Wigtownshire coast.

Death was at hand even in Wigtownshire as Kokoschka’s many drawings of dead game and fish testify to. A memorable work of this period was “The Hunters” a portrait of Douglas Blew-Jones and Pat Campbell, who rented Corsmalzie House, near Port William. Kokoschka described his contact with the hunters thus:

We knew two eccentric Englishmen, both keen shots, who lived an isolated life with a pack of lazy gundogs, in a once fine house that lay deep in a boggy wood, overgrown with mouldering creepers. There were so many dogs lolling about on the sofas and chairs that one had trouble finding a place to sit down. Pheasant being out of season, rabbits were the only game; what the dogs left over the men ate. Once out of boredom, they began firing at their own reflections in the ceiling high mirrors. We called on them no more after that.
(My Life, Oskar Kokoschka, London 1974)

Wigtownshire and the hospitality of the Korners ensured that one of the most important artists to visit Dumfries and Galloway was able to survive the war and continue his work.

Images

See Colvocoressi Kokoschka and Scotland National Galleries of Scotland 1990. The booklet contains a photograph of Kokoschka in Wigtownshire in 1942.

Self-portrait of a degenerate artist. On loan to Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Loreley Tate