Oskar Kokoschka

Polperro II


Not on display

Oskar Kokoschka 1886–1980
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 606 × 864 mm
frame: 761 × 1026 × 86 mm
Presented by Dr Edvard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia 1941

Display caption

Born in Austria, Kokoschka moved to Prague in 1934 to escape the rise of fascism, leaving for the UK in 1938. By July 1939 he was living in Cornwall in a house on a cliff overlooking the sea. The Second World War broke out shortly after his arrival and, for security reasons, painting in the open air was forbidden. This picture was painted in Kokoschka’s house and shows the view from a window. Kokoschka has written on the back: ‘30 years of an emigrant’s artistic wisdom. An artist’s signature remains - but leaders of states bloom & fall.’

Gallery label, April 2019

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Catalogue entry

Oskar Kokoschka 1886-1980

N05251 Polperro II 1939

Inscribed 'OK' b.l. and '30 years of an | emigrant's | artistic wisdom | An artist's signature | remains - but leaders | of states bloom & fall. | All? Why? - | How an artist lives! | gives!' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 23 7/8 x 34 (60.5 x 86)
Presented by Edvard Benes, President of Czechoslovakia, 1941
Prov: Edvard Benes, London (purchased from the artist 1941)
Exh: The Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (68); A Selection from the Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, CEMA touring exhibition, September 1942-September 1943 (46); Oskar Kokoschka: aus seinen Schaffen 1907-1950, Haus der Kunst, Munich, September-October 1950 (72); Kunsthalle, Hamburg, December 1950-January 1951 (72); Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim, January 1951 (72); Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, February-March 1951 (36); Oskar Kokoschka, Haus der Kunst, Munich, March-May 1958 (111, repr.); Künstlerhaus, Vienna, May-June 1958 (113, repr.); Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, July-October 1958 (68); Oskar Kokoschka in England and Scotland, Marlborough Fine Art, London, November-December 1960 (13); Oskar Kokoschka zum 85. Geburtstag, Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, April-June 1971 (63, repr.)
Lit: Edith Hoffmann, 'Oskar Kokoschka' in The Listener, XXV, 6 March 1941, p.335 and repr.; Edith Hoffmann, Kokoschka: Life and Work (London 1947), No.286, pp.231-2, 335, repr. pl.72 as 'Polperro-I'; James S. Plaut, Oskar Kokoschka (Boston-London 1948), pp.19-20; Michelangelo Masciotta, Kokoschka (Florence 1949), No.5, p.49, repr. pl.44 as 'Polperro I'; Hans Maria Wingler, Oskar Kokoschka: The Work of the Painter (Salzburg-London 1958), No.318, p.328 and repr. as 'Polperro II'; J. P. Hodin, Oskar Kokoschka: The Artist and his Time (London 1966), pp. 24, 199; Jans Tomes, Oskar Kokoschka: London Views, British Landscapes (London 1972), pp.43-4, 47, repr. p.45 in colour; Oskar Kokoschka, My Life (London 1974), pp.160-1

Kokoschka spent his first months in England as a refugee in Hampstead, but at the end of July or the beginning of August 1939 he moved to Polperro in Cornwall, where he lived in a house on a cliff towering over the sea. Unfortunately war broke out shortly after his arrival and, for security reasons, painting in the open air was soon forbidden. This picture was painted within the walls of his house and shows the view from a window.

He began at Polperro by making a series of watercolours of the scenery, including several of more or less this view. According to Edith Hoffmann, this was his first work in oils and was followed by a closely related picture (Wingler, No.318) now in the Seilern collection bequeathed to the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. However, Wingler states on the authority of the artist's wife that the present work is the second of the two versions. The other picture shows an angle of vision slightly more to the left; it includes part of a cliff face on the left-hand side and omits the houses on the extreme right.

Kokoschka eventually had to leave Polperro in June or July 1940, when the whole of the south coast was declared a defence area from which foreigners were excluded.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.392-3, reproduced p.392

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