Oskar Kokoschka

1986 - 1980

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Oskar Kokoschka CBE was an Austrian artist, poet, playwright, and teacher best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes, as well as his theories on vision that influenced the Viennese Expressionist movement.

The second child of Gustav Josef Kokoschka, a Bohemian goldsmith, and Maria Romana Kokoschka (née Loidl), Oskar Kokoschka was born in Pöchlarn. He had a sister, Berta, born in 1889; a brother, Bohuslav, born in 1892; and an elder brother who died in infancy. Oskar had a strong belief in omens, spurred by a story of a fire breaking out in Pöchlarn shortly after his mother gave birth to him. The family's life was not easy, largely due to a lack of financial stability of his father. They constantly moved into smaller flats, farther and farther from the thriving centre of the town. Concluding that his father was inadequate, Kokoschka drew closer to his mother; and seeing himself as the head of the household, he continued to support his family when he gained financial independence. Kokoschka entered a Realschule in 1897, a type of secondary school, where emphasis was placed on the study of modern subjects such as the sciences and language. Despite his intent of continuing a formal education in chemistry, Kokoschka was not interested in such subjects, as he only excelled in art, and spent most of his time reading classic literature during his lessons. Like many of Kokoschka's French and German contemporaries, he was interested in the primitive and exotic art featured in the ethnographical exhibits around Europe.