Oskar Kokoschka, Self-Portrait with a Stick

A Political Painting Nonetheless

A Political Painting Nonetheless

A Political Painting Nonetheless

Some works of art show a person from a private angle, but still carry significant political meaning. The tranquility of this painting is misleading as it dates back to turbulent times. After the civil war of 1934, Oskar Kokoschka left Vienna and headed to Prague where he stayed until he emigrated to England. The political developments caught up with the artist in June 1935 when the Czech government passed a law that prohibited foreigners from engaging in political activities. Even though president Thomas Garrigue Masaryk subsequently arranged for Kokoschka to be granted Czech citizenship, the artist was appalled at the changes sweeping Europe.

Surrounded by states with authoritarian forms of government (corporative state in Austria, National Socialism in Germany) the artist saw himself in the role of a wayfarer stopping for a rest in the midst of an idyllic landscape. This image of a quiet moment of thoughtful reflection is one of the artist’s most beautiful self-portraits.

Oskar Kokoschka, Self-Portrait with A Stick, 1935
© State of Lower Austria, Lower Austrian State Collections
Photo: Peter Böttcher

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