new-york

Oskar Kokoschka

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

From 1909 to 1911 Oskar Kokoschka produced perhaps the most extraordinary portraits made in this century. In what can only be understood as a tour de force of what the psychiatrist Daniel Stem calls affect attunement, Kokoschka was able to create subtle visual equivalents to the complex moods of his subjects. The portraits have usually been understood as uniformly “decadent” likenesses—few are their equal in articulating ambivalence so deftly—but it is not so simple. Kokoschka was able to differentiate clearly between and translate the particularities of his sitters, and he subtly adjusted his method—his strategies of “expression”—to each. For instance, the whorls of paint in the forehead of his portrait of Felix Albrecht Harta, 1909, begin as descriptive devices and become exclamations of tension, like uncoiling yet still concentrated springs, reflecting the tension in Hana’s ambiguously

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