© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

The Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky Archive Gallery 

Loreley

Oskar Kokoschka, Loreley  1941–2

The title Loreley refers to a mythical Rhine maiden, who lured sailors to their death. Kokoschka explained that his painting mocks British claims to maritime supremacy: ‘Britannia no longer rules the waves; inaction has lasted too long; an octopus swims away with a trident, the emblem of marine power. Queen Victoria, who built up the British fleet into a dominant position, rides a shark and stuffs white, brown and black sailors into its mouth. Only the frog on her hand refuses to accept the same fate: it represents Ireland, where there are no reptiles except frogs’.

Gallery label, July 2008

© Fondation Oskar Kokoschka

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Prunier

Max Beckmann, Prunier  1944

This work depicts the famous Parisian restaurant Prunier. Beckmann had frequented the restaurant in the early 1930s, but at the time of this work he was living in exile in German-occupied Amsterdam. Wartime conditions were spartan. This may account for Beckmann calling the picture ’Gobblers’ in his diary, and for the brutality with which his figures devour luxurious seafood. Beckmann suffered from heart trouble shortly after beginning the painting, so that the contrast between his daily, wartime realities and the sensual pleasure conjured up in the painting may suggest a meditation on mortality.

Gallery label, July 2008

© DACS, 2020

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Still Life with Sheep

Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky, Still Life with Sheep  1938

This was painted in a small hotel in Amsterdam. The artist had travelled there with her mother from their home in Vienna, immediately following the arrival of the Germans in Austria in 1938. In this still life, she posed the objects, including two eighteenth-century Chinese sheep ornaments and some fruit, on an ironing board in the hotel, with the ironing board dictating the unusual oblong shape of the painting. Aside from the sheep, objects whose reassuring familiarity reminded the artist of her Viennese surroundings, this unusual still life is characterised by the rich colours of the grapefruit and by the bunch of grapes.

Gallery label, October 2016

© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

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View from the Window, Vienna

Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky, View from the Window, Vienna  1925

This painting depicts a view of roofs and facades seen from the artist’s fourth-floor flat in Vienna, where she lived during the first half of the 1920s. The cupola in the upper centre of the painting is part of the Johann Strauss Theatre, famous for its performances of light opera. Technically this painting makes a shift in the artist’s work. Previously she had applied paint in dabs which created a mottled effect. This work is painted with rather freer brush strokes. The elongated vertical format is characteristic of von Motesiczky’s canvases of the period.

Gallery label, October 2016

© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

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From Night into Day

Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky, From Night into Day  1975

This is a portrait of the artist's mother, Henriette von Motesiczky, at the age of ninety-three. She is shown in bed, at the home they shared in Hampstead, London. The title relates to the fact that von Motesiczky's mother found difficulty in sleeping and often lay awake as night became day. She did not sit for this portrait. Instead, it was painted in the artist's studio near her mother's bedroom, which von Motesiczky regularly visited to see her model. It thus combines memory and observation. Von Motesiczky made eighteen portraits of her mother from the mid-1940s until the latter's death in 1978. The artist believed this to be 'one of the very best'.

Gallery label, August 2004

© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

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Portrait of a Russian Student

Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky, Portrait of a Russian Student  1927

Portrait of a Russian Student 1927 depicts a young man with blonde hair seated in an interior setting. He is dressed formally in a grey suit and white shirt, the sober tones of which contrast with the green and pink patterned wallpaper behind him and the pink curtain at the right edge of the composition. His face has an intense, serious expression accentuated by his thin angular features and staring eyes, but most expressive of emotion are his hands. These are held in mid-air, perhaps in the act of gesticulating nervously, accentuating the impression of tension and anxiety. The identity of the sitter is unknown, but Motesiczky’s brother Karl was in contact with Russian scholars at the time that the portrait was painted, and she most likely met him through her brother. The work was probably painted in Paris while Motesiczky was studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Montparnasse. The simplified, angular forms and sparse setting, as well as the sober realist treatment of the figure, show Motesiczky adopting the formal approach of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement, with whom Max Beckmann (1884–1950), her mentor, exhibited in 1925. Like many of her early works, the background is divided into two sections, representing two walls of a room, the corner located behind the sitter’s head. The wall behind the sitter’s right shoulder is lit by light from the window on the right, while the other wall is in shadow. The muted colours are punctuated by flashes of pink in the wallpaper, curtain and sitter’s lips.

© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

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Old Woman, Amersham

Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky, Old Woman, Amersham  1942

Old Woman, Amersham 1942 is a half-length portrait of an elderly woman wearing a hat and holding a piece of white cloth. The figure is positioned against a yellow background which echoes a yellow garment just visible beneath the sitter’s black coat. The work combines loose expressionist handling with a strong evocation of character, conveyed by the close attention to the marks of ageing on the features of the sitter. The work was painted four years after Motesiczky had emigrated to England in 1939, when she was in close contact with the German painter Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980), an old family friend. Kokoschka’s loose handling of paint and his tendency to turn portraits into symbolic compositions were influences on this painting and others of the period (see, for example, Kokoschka’s Ambassador Ivan Maisky 1942–3 [Tate N05432] for an example of his fluid paint handling). The white cloth or sheet that Motesiczky’s sitter holds has been interpreted as a reference to the use of the shroud in Dutch painting to suggest that the subject, in this case a neighbour in Amersham who, according to the artist, lived to be one hundred years old, will outlive those around her. The work was exhibited in Motesiczky’s exhibition at the Czechoslovak Institute, London in autumn 1944. At the time Kokoschka suggested to Sir John Rothenstein, then Director of the Tate Gallery, that Tate might acquire a work from the exhibition. Rothenstein included Old Woman, Amersham on a list of works to be considered, but ultimately it was not acquired at that time.

© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

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Art in this room

Loreley
Oskar Kokoschka Loreley 1941–2
Prunier
Max Beckmann Prunier 1944
Still Life with Sheep
Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky Still Life with Sheep 1938
View from the Window, Vienna
Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky View from the Window, Vienna 1925
From Night into Day
Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky From Night into Day 1975
Portrait of a Russian Student
Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky Portrait of a Russian Student 1927
Old Woman, Amersham
Marie-Louise Von Motesiczky Old Woman, Amersham 1942