Liegender weiblicher Akt mit abgewinkelten Armen signed with initials 'OK' (lower right) black chalk and watercolor on buff paper 12 x 17 1/4in. (30.5 x 44cm) Drawn in 1912
PROVENANCE Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York. Anon. sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart, 30 May 1956, lot 617 (illustrated pl. 19). Mr and Mrs Matthew H. Futter, New York, and thence by descent.
LITERATURE E. Rathenau, Der Zeichner Kokoschka, New York, 1962, no. 34 (illustrated). A. Weidinger and A. Strobl, Oskar Kokoschka, Die Zeichnungen und Aquarelle 1897-1916, Salzburg, 2008, p. 316, no. 444 (illustrated).
In 1912, the year of the present drawing, Kokoschka was a contributing editor and primary illustrator for Herwarth Walden's Der Sturm, the highly influential weekly periodical devoted to contemporary literature, and dividing his time between Berlin and Vienna. The arrangement with Walden was extremely significant, and had probably come about through an introduction from the Austrian architect and collector Adolf Loos. Kokoschka's illustrations for Der Sturm were often portraits, which with an expressive and unusual line captured the spirit and essence of the sitter's character.
The present drawing clearly shows Kokoschka's Austrian affinities. The reclining nude is similar in pose to Gustav Klimt's life studies, before his shift towards art nouveau, but perhaps more pertinently the expressive force, and the sparing use of brown wash at the feet and hair, is strikingly reminiscent of Egon Schiele. The two artists were to some extent rivals. Like Schiele, Kokoschka often presented his subjects from unnerving and contorted viewpoints to establish an intense psychological portrait, revealing the strength of inner emotion. Unlike Schiele, however, Kokoschka was more inclined to focus on the raw integrity of his subjects, avoiding an overt eroticism.
Kokoschka described his state of mind during this time as being 'conscious of the near-ugliness of reality compared with the illusionist's magic color, born in the master's unbound imagination...I soon became aware of and was caught by the Austrian Baroque artist's indocility to the classicist Italian conventions of harmony.' (quoted in E. Hoffman, Kokoschka: His life and work, London, 1947, p. 33). The present drawing, an unflinching portrait, is true reflection of the artist's worldview in 1912.
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