Oskar Kokochka

Marlborough | Chelsea

There are plenty of contemporary sources for the sentimental esthetic of Oskar Kokoschka. I look at him now mostly as a curiosity, or as a source of clues toward a reading of the new wave of expressionist painters gaining favor in Europe and America. Kokoschka has always found champions among those critics who love to croon magic words like “evocative,” “expressive,” “emotionality,” and “experiential,” but the sad truth is that, despite intentions, he never was much of a painter. His early work is little more than an emaciated pastiche of Art Nouveau, while his later years were given over to a rather uninspired realism given a veneer of modernist respectability through the manipulation of thickish paint. He did manage to produce a few acceptable paintings, but nothing in his output even begins to suggest why he was reviled by some as a monster of modernity, and hailed by others as a wild

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