Oskar Kokoschka - Lithographs

Kokoschka’s preferred printmaking technique was lithography. He rarely drew directly on the stone; his original drafts were transferred by using the method of transfer printing. In his early period he created, in addition to designing numerous postcards for the Wiener Werkstätte, several illustrations for his own poems. 

In 1908, Kokoschka’s first work of this kind was published: Die träumenden Knaben (“The Dreaming Boys”), a poetry book with colorful illustrations, inspired by Art Nouveau and Japanese woodcuts. In the series of chalk lithographs Die Chinesische Mauer (“The Great Wall of China”) and Der gefesselte Columbus (“The Bound Columbus”), which were published after 1913, Kokoschka increasingly dissolved his initially closed outlines into vibrant line structures. 

The prominent highlight of these illustrations was the portfolio of lithographs Bachkantate (“Bach Cantata”), first published in 1916, which, according to the theme of hope and fear, reveals strong contrasts between the black chalk lines and the white surface of the sheet. 

Kokoschka’s poems and illustrations were always a projection of his own psyche, a reflection of mental processes. He also depicted them in the works he created in 1917 and 1918 for his tragic plays Hiob (“Job”) and Orpheus und Eurydike (“Orpheus and Eurydice”). 

During his stay in Dresden, Kokoschka increasingly occupied himself with portrait lithography. His subjects at the time included Max Reinhardt, Hermine Körner and Tilla Durieux, with whom the artist maintained a close friendly or professional relationship. 

Kokoschka’s departure from Dresden marked a break in his graphic oeuvre, which he resumed in the early 1930s with numerous “Trudl portraits.” He produced almost no printed works while he was in exile in London during World War II. 

Most of Kokoschka’s graphic oeuvre was created after 1956. He published several printed series, primarily illustrations of major works of world literature. In his late period, Kokoschka again intensively devoted himself to the portrait, especially the self-portrait. He generally portrayed himself as viewed from below in monumentalized half-length figures with varying attributes. Kokoschka depicted his physical and psychological condition in these self-portraits, thus documenting his own life process.


Oskar Kokoschka, Das druckgraphische Werk, Hans Wingler and Friedrich Welz (ed.), Salzburg 1975

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