Oskar Kokoschka

Self-Portrait of a Degenerate Artist

About this artwork

Eight of Kokschka's paintings were included in the exhibition of Degenerate 'Art' organised by the Nazis to pour scorn on modern art. The artist altered the position of his arms in this painting, to make them defiantly crossed, in response his inclusion in the exhibition. The background shows the woods behind the house belonging to his future wife's grandparents, where he had begun the painting. A deer can be seen on the right and a running figure on the left. It has been suggested that both of these elements refer to flight or pursuit and to the artist as a hunted man.

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Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka

Kokoschka studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna from 1905 to 1909, where he also worked for the Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshops). Although his early work was part of the 'art nouveau' movement in Vienna, he soon developed into Austria's leading expressionist painter, specialising in disturbing psychological portraits. After being invalided out of the army during the First World War, Kokoschka was based mainly in Dresden until 1923. He travelled until 1930, and from 1931 to 1934 returned to live in his native Vienna. In 1934 he moved to Prague, where he took out Czech citizenship. After the Munich Agreement of September 1938, he was forced to flee to London with his future wife, Olda Palkovska. He became a British citizen in 1947, and lived mainly in Switzerland after 1953.