Oskar Kokoschka

View of the Thames


Not on display

Oskar Kokoschka 1886–1980
Oil paint on canvas
Frame: 1096 × 1396 × 75 mm, 22 kg
support: 914 × 1232 mm
Presented by David Hellings 1970

Display caption

Throughout his long career, Kokoschka developed a special affinity for riverscapes, painting river scenes in many major European cities, including Prague, Lyons, Dresden and Salzburg. He painted and sketched many river views of London from 1925 to the early 1970s, most frequently looking up or downstream from buildings near Waterloo Bridge. This view looks down river toward St Paul's Cathedral. Painted during a hot October, the artist's vantage point was the roof of the Shell-Mex building on the Strand. The picture was painted entirely on the spot without preliminary studies of any kind.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Oskar Kokoschka 1886-1980

T01252 View of the Thames 1959

Inscribed 'OK' b.l.
Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 1/2 (91.5 x 123)
Presented by David Hellings 1970
Prov: With Marlborough Fine Art, London (purchased from the artist); David Hellings, London, 1960
Exh: Oskar Kokoschka in England and Scotland, Marlborough Fine Art, London, November-December 1960 (34, repr.); Dunn International, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, September-October 1963 (43); Tate Gallery, November-December 1963 (43, repr.); Homage to Kokoschka, Marlborough Fine Art, London, March-April 1966 (11, repr.)
Lit: Bernhard Bultmann, Oskar Kokoschka (London 1961), p.124, repr. p.125 in colour; Jan Tomes, Oskar Kokoschka: London Views, British Landscapes (London 1972), pp.67-8, repr. p.69 in colour as 'Large London View from Shell-Mex'

A view of the Thames in London, painted from the Shell-Mex building next to the Savoy and looking down the river towards St Paul's. Waterloo Bridge is in the foreground.

The artist's wife stated (letter of August 1971): 'It is from the roof of Shell-Mex (it was very hot) that my husband worked from October 1st to thirteenth 1959. It was all arranged if I remember rightly with the help of Mr Walter Neurath of "Thames & Hudson" Publishing, who knew one of the directors, and it was painted entirely on the spot, without sketches, preliminary studies of any kind. By then we lived here in Switzerland and we were in London for about 6 weeks, immediately after this landscape my husband painted the portrait of Sir Stanley Unwin.'

Between 1925 and 1970 Kokoschka produced at least thirteen pictures of London, mostly views of the Thames. During his first brief visit in 1925 he made the first of these, a picture of 'Tower Bridge'. Then he returned for the greater part of 1926 and painted three more Thames views, all from the Hotel Cecil near Somerset House but looking in different directions, as well as a view from Richmond Terrace. All his other London views were executed from 1954 onwards, after he had gone to live in Switzerland and in the course of his periodic return visits to this country. Jan Tomes, who has devoted a book to these views and Kokoschka's other landscapes of Britain, points out that they constitute one of the most comprehensive cycles in his work, and can be compared with his nine city panoramas of Dresden and seventeen of Prague.

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, p.394, reproduced p.394

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