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The second child of Gustav Josef Kokoschka, a Bohemian goldsmith, and Maria Romana Kokoschka (née Loidl), Oskar Kokoschka was born in Pöchlarn. His older brother died in infancy. His sister, Berta was born in 1889; and a brother, Bohuslav, in 1892. 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,[when?] a type of secondary school, where emphasis was placed on the study of modern subjects such as the sciences and language. 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.
One of Kokoschka's teachers suggested he pursue a career in the fine arts. Against his father's will, Kokoschka applied to the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna, now the University of Applied Arts Vienna. He was one of three applicants accepted of 153. The Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule was a progressive school of applied arts that focused mainly on architecture, furniture, crafts and modern design. Unlike the more prestigious and traditional Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the Kunstgewerbeschule was dominated by instructors of the Vienna Secession. Kokoschka studied there from 1904 to 1909, and was influenced by his teacher Carl Otto Czeschka in developing an original style.
Among Kokoschka's early works were gesture drawings of children, which portrayed them as awkward and corpse-like. Kokoschka had no formal training in painting and so approached the medium without regard to the "traditional" or "correct" way to paint. The teachers at the Kunstgewerbeschule helped Kokoschka gain opportunities through the Wiener Werkstätte or Viennese Workshops. Kokoschka's first commissions were postcards and drawings for children. Later, Kokoschka said that this exercise provided "the basis of [his] artistic training". His early career was marked by portraits of Viennese celebrities, painted in a nervously animated style.
The house in which Oskar Kokoschka was born in Pöchlarn (August 2006)
Kokoschka had a passionate, often stormy affair with Alma Mahler. It began in 1912, five years after the death of her four-year-old daughter Maria Mahler and two years after her affair with Walter Gropius, later a celebrated architect in Berlin. But after several years together, Alma rejected him, explaining that she was afraid of being too overcome with passion. He continued to love her his entire life, and one of his most acclaimed works, The Bride of the Wind (The Tempest; 1913), is expressive of their relationship. The poet Georg Trakl visited the studio while Kokoschka was painting this masterpiece. Kokoschka's poem Allos Makar was inspired by this relationship.
He volunteered for service as a cavalryman in the Austrian army in World War I, and in 1915 was seriously wounded. At the hospital, the doctors decided that he was mentally unstable. Nevertheless, he continued to develop his career as an artist, traveling across Europe and painting the landscape.
Deemed a degenerate by the Nazis, Kokoschka fled Austria in 1934 for Prague. In Prague his name was adopted by a group of other expatriate artists, the Oskar-Kokoschka-Bund (OKB), though Kokoschka declined participation with their group. In 1938, when the Czechs began to mobilize for the expected invasion of the Wehrmacht, he fled to the United Kingdom and remained there during the war. With the help of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia (later the Czech Refugee Trust Fund), all members of the OKB were able to escape through Poland and Sweden.
During World War II, Kokoschka painted anti-Fascist works such as the allegory What We Are Fighting For (1943). During several summer months, he and his young wife, Oldriska "Olda" Palkovská Kokoschka (1915-2009), lived in Ullapool, a village in Wester Ross, Scotland. There he drew with coloured pencil (a technique he developed in Scotland), and painted many local landscape views in watercolour. While in Ullapool, Kokoschka painted a portrait of his friend, the wealthy industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Uncle of Maria Altmann. The painting hangs at the Kunsthaus Museum in Zurich. Between 1941-1946 he and Olda spent several weeks each summer with the Czech Professor Emil Korner at his home The House of Elrig in Wigtownshire.
Kokoschka became a British citizen in 1946 and would only regain Austrian citizenship in 1978. He travelled briefly to the United States in 1947 before settling in Switzerland, where he lived the rest of his life. He died in Montreux on 22 February 1980.
Kokoschka had much in common with his contemporary Max Beckmann. Both maintained their independence from German Expressionism, yet are now regarded as textbook examples of the style. Nonetheless, their individualism set both apart from the main movements of twentieth-century modernism. Both wrote eloquently of the need to develop the art of "seeing" (Kokoschka emphasized depth perception while Beckmann was concerned with mystical insight into the invisible realm), and both were masters of innovative oil-painting techniques anchored in earlier traditions.
1908: Die traumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Youths) Vienna: Wiener Werkstätte (Originally published in an edition of 500 by the Wiener Werkstätte. Unsold copies numbered 1-275, were reissued in 1917 by Kurt Wolff Verlag.)
1909: Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, the Hope of Women) (Play)
1913: Der gefesselte Columbus (Columbus Bound). [Berlin]: Fritz Gurlitt,  (known as Der weisse Tiertoter (The White Animal Slayer).
1919: Orpheus and Eurydike, in: Vier Dramen: Orpheus und Eurydike; Der brennende Dornbusch; Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen; [and] Hiob. Berlin
1955: Designs of the Stage-Settings for W.A. Mozart's Magic Flute, Salzburg Festival 1955/56. Salzburg: Galerie Welz
Oskar Kokoschka, "Lettre de Voyage", X magazine, Vol. I, No. II (March 1960)
Berland, Rosa JH. "Expressionist Death Images and the Feminine Other: Oskar Kokoschka's Mörder Hoffnung der Frauen (1907) and Hugo Von Hofmannsthal's Elektra (1903). Death Representations in Literature. Cambridge Scholars, 2015.
Berland, Rosa JH. "The radical work of Oskar Kokoschka and the alternative venues of Die Kunstschauen of 1908-1909, Vienna, Austria." Exhibiting Outside the Academy, Salon and Biennial, 1775-1999. Ashgate Press, 2015.
Berland, Rosa JH (Winter-Spring 2008). "The Exploration of Dreams: Kokoschka's Die träumenden Knaben" and Freud". Source. 27 (2/3 Special issue on art and psychoanalysis): 25-31.
Oliver Hilmes: Witwe im Wahn - Das Leben der Alma Mahler-Werfel, Siedler Vlg., München 2004 ISBN978-3-88680-797-0.
Wolfgang Maier-Preusker: Buch- und Mappenwerke mit Grafik des Deutschen Expressionismus, Ausst.Kat. für Hansestadt Wismar, Wien 2006 ISBN3-900208-37-9
Tilo Richter (ed.): Horst Tappe: Kokoschka, m. Fotografien v. Horst Tappe, Zitaten (d/e/f) u. Grafiken v. Oskar Kokoschka, Vorwort v. Christoph Vitali, Christoph Merian Verlag, Basel 2005 ISBN3-85616-235-6
Alfred Weidinger: Kokoschka und Alma Mahler - Dokumente einer leidenschaftlichen Begegnung, Reihe 'Pegasus Bibliothek', Prestel Vlg., München/New York 1996 ISBN3-7913-1711-3. * Widerstand statt Anpassung: Deutsche Kunst im Widerstand gegen den Faschismus 1933-1945, Elefanten Press Verlag GmbH, Berlin 1980
Alfred Weidinger, Alice Strobl: Oskar Kokoschka. Die Zeichnungen und Aquarelle 1897-1916. Werkkatalog, 1. Band. Hg. Albertina. Verlag Galerie Welz, Salzburg 2008 ISBN978-3-85349-290-1
Alfred Weidinger: Oskar Kokoschka. Träumender Knabe - Enfant terrible, 1906-1922. Hg. Agnes Husslein-Arco, Alfred Weidinger. Belvedere, Wien 2008 ISBN978-3-901508-37-0
Norbert Werner (Hg.): Kokoschka - Leben und Werk in Daten und Bildern, Insel Vlg., Frankfurt/M. 1991 ISBN3-458-32609-X
Hans M. Wingler, Friedrich Welz: Oskar Kokoschka - Das druckgraphische Werk , Verlag Galerie Welz, Salzburg 1975 ISBN3-85349-037-9
Johann Winkler, Katharina Erling: Oskar Kokoschka - Die Gemälde 1906-1929, Verlag Galerie Welz, Salzburg 1995