Sale: 550 / Evening Sale, June 07. 2024 in Munich Lot 32

Oskar Kokoschka
Private Property, 1939/40.
Oil on canvas
€ 120,000 / $ 126,000
€ 304,800 / $ 320,040

(incl. surcharge)
Private Property. 1939/40.
Oil on canvas.
Lower right monogrammed. Signed "PRIVATE PROPERTY by OK 1939" on the reverse, as well as with a round [customs?] Stempel. Verso with an exhibition label from 1953, numbered "1294", with a label of James Bourlet & Sons, London, numbered "G 1073" and with hand-written numbers "473 [crossed out]", "52" and the inscription "Holland". 63 x 76 cm (24.8 x 29.9 in).

• A complex allegorical document of the times: Kokoschka visualizes his own existence and the perilous political situation.
• Like the two fish, Kokoschka and his wife Olda were stranded in the supposed idyll of England after leaving Prague in 1938.
• In exile, Kokoschka took an artistic and political stand against the Nazi regime, which ostracized and destroyed his works as “degenerate”.
• Uninterrupted provenance: part of a private collection since 1954.
• Shown at the most important exhibitions that brought Kokoschka back into the limelight after the war: the retrospective in Zurich in 1947 and the solo exhibition at the first post-war Venice Biennale in 1948.
• Important critical works from this period can be found at Tate Gallery in London, the National Gallery in Prague and the Kunsthaus Zürich

PROVENANCE: In possession of the artist, London / Cornwall / Scotland (until 1953: Donation in the charity auction "Kunstenaars helpen“ for the benefit of victims of a flood in the Netherlands).
Private collection Netherlands (since 1953, acquired at mentioned charity auction).
Ever since family-owned.

EXHIBITION: Exhibition of contemporary continental art. Paintings, water-colors, sculptures, including a monumental work by Henryk Gotlib Warsaw, J. Leger Gallery, London, July 3 - August 2, 1941, no. 24
Meisterwerke aus Österreich. Zeichnungen, Gemälde, Plastik, Kunsthaus, Zürich, Nov. 1946-Feb. 1947, no. 473.
Oskar Kokoschka, Kunsthaus, Zürich, July 3 - August 31, 1947, no. 52.
XXIV. Biennale di Venezia. Oskar Kokoschka: Mostra personale, June 6 - September 30, 1948, no. 16.
Kunstenaars helpen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, February 1953 (with a label on the reverse, no. 1294).
Oskar Kokoschka. Humanist und Rebell, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, April 26 - August 17, 2014, pp. 256, 305 (illu. on pp. 268-269).

Fondation Oskar Kokoschka, Vevey, online catalog of paintings by Oskar Kokoschka, no. 1939/6,
Johann Winkler, Katharina Erling, Oskar Kokoschka. Die Gemälde, Salzburg 1995, no. 346 (illu.).
Hans M. Wingler, Oskar Kokoschka. Das Werk des Malers, Salzburg 1956, p. 62, no. 320 (illu. on plate 100).
Edith Hoffmann, Kokoschka. Life and work, London 1947, pp. 224, 233-234, no. 290 (illu. on plate LXXV).
Michelangelo Masciotta, Le ultime pitture di Kokoschka, in: Il mondo europeo, Rome, Florence, 1947, no. 46, July 1.
Joseph P. Hodin, Oskar Kokoschka. Sein Leben - seine Zeit, Berlin/Mainz 1968, p. 56.
Oskar Kokoschka, Mein Leben. Vorwort und Mitarbeit von Remigius Netzer. Munich 1971, p. 252.
Diether Schmidt, Oskar Kokoschka zum 90. Geburtstag, in: Bildende Kunst, Berlin (GDR), year 24, 1976, issue 3, pp. 127-130, here p. 130.
Gisela Seeger (ed.), Exil in der Tschechoslowakei, in Großbritannien, Skandinavien und in Palästina, Leipzig 1980, p. 278.
Lucia Bortolon, La cultura politica di Oskar Kokoschka. Analisi della produzione 1934-1946, Milan 1984, p. 44 (illu.)
Diether Schmidt, Partisan Oskar Kokoschka, in: Michael Nungesser (ed.), Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933-1945, ex. cat. Orangerie, Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, January 10 - February 23, 1986, p. 192.
Frank Whitford, Oskar Kokoschka. A life, London 1986, p. 177.
Robert Radford, Kokoschka's political allegories, in: Art Monthly, London, no. 97, June 1986, p. 3.
Magarete Stone, Oskar Kokoschka in British Exile, in: Siglinde Bolbecher, Konstantin Kaiser [et al] (ed.), Literatur und Kultur des Exils in Großbritannien, Vienna 1995, pp. 86-101, p. 93.
Susanne Keegan, The eye of God. A life of Oskar Kokoschka. London 1999, pp. 202-203.
Heinz Spielmann, Oskar Kokoschka. Leben und Werk, Cologne 2003, pp. 355-356.
Oskar Kokoschka, Mein Leben, Vienna 2008, pp. 244-245.
Heinz Spielmann, "Ein politischer Mensch" - Oskar Kokoschkas Kritik an Staat und Gesellschaft, in: Oskar Kokoschka - Expressionist, Migrant, Europäer. Eine Retrospektive, ex. cat. Kunsthaus Zürich/Leopold Museum Vienna, Heidelberg/Berlin 2018, illu. p. 223.

1379 Frans Hals Museum te Haarlem, March 1 Tentoonstellingen gehouden in het museum Huis van Looy, 1949-1967, 134 “Kunstenaars helpen" t.b.v. de slachtoffers van de watersnood, 12 september-4 oktober 1953, Trekkingslijst van de Nationale lotterij "Kunstenaars helpen“, April 7, 1954, Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, URL:, files: NL-HlmNHA_1379_134_0014 bis NL-HlmNHA_1379_134_0016.

"I painted a series of 'political' pictures back then, not because I felt political commitment, but with the intention of opening the eyes of others."
quoted from: Oskar Kokoschka, Mein Leben, Vienna 2008, p. 250.

Following the death of his mother and the rise of the National Socialists, Oskar Kokoschka moved from Vienna to Prague in 1934, where he would meet his future wife, the 19-year-old lawyer Olda (Oldriska) Aloisie Palkovská (1915-2004). A year later he accepted Czech citizenship. In Germany he would be ostracized as an artist for the next few years, defamed as the "most degenerate among the degenerates" and Hitler's "art enemy no. 1". The regime removed over 600 of his works from German museums, destroyed them, or sold them to Switzerland in exchange for foreign currency. When the first station of the propaganda exhibition "Degenerate Art" opened its doors in Munich in July 1937, Kokoschka was prominently represented. At the same time, the first retrospective exhibition of the 51-year-old artist took place in Vienna, while he held a teaching post at the Prague Academy at the time.
In March 1938, German troops marched into Austria and announced the "Anschluss". When the Munich Agreement was signed by France, Great Britain, and Italy on September 29, in the context of which the western territories of Czechoslovakia which were mainly inhabited by Germans, were also "incorporated" into the German Reich, Kokoschka and his wife had their bags packed. On October 18, the time had finally come: "One day, Olda surprised me with the news that two seats to London would be free tomorrow morning. She had booked them without asking me first. That was good because otherwise I probably wouldn't be alive today." (Oskar Kokoschka, Mein Leben, Vienna 2008, p. 241). Head over heels, the two set off for England, where they initially stayed in a cheap boarding house in London.
In August 1939, the couple moved into a small cottage in the fishing village of Polperro on the south coast of Cornwall, "also because it was cheaper than in crowded London and we could breathe pure sea air. We lived in a log cabin on the cliffs jutting out from the ocean. Unfortunately, it was soon forbidden for military reasons to paint outdoors, so I made sketches on the beach with colored pencils." (ibid. p. 244).
Kokoschka was in a deep creative crisis, and they had arrived in England almost penniless. To make ends meet, Olda sold pastries to villagers and tourists in Polperro. However, the landscape inspired Kokoschka to create new works that would increasingly develop from apolitical to allegorical key pictures. On March 15, German tanks rolled into Prague and annexed the remaining Czech territory. It was during this turbulent period that Kokoschka created the present painting with the sarcastic title, in which he attempted to come to terms with the political situation through art. The English appeasement policy, which observed the disaster on the continent from a safe distance, just waiting and wondering, made the artist furious. Another painting was 'Private Property': a cat guarding dead fish, in the background a pensioner with an umbrella and a bag taking a walk on the beach. I was surprised at how phlegmatic the English were, oblivious to the coming war, while people on the continent were driven into the abyss by the Führer like panicking sheep." (ibid., pp. 244-245).
On the rocks, he had observed an old lady who always sat there knitting - like in an animal fable, he presents her with the head of a cat. England is not a fierce lion, but a tamed tiger, like a cat on a postcard. In the foreground, we see two fish washed up on the shore, like the two refugees Oskar and Olda, and to the left, the rats are already waiting for their meal. In the narrow harbor bay of Polperro, Kokoschka may have often looked anxiously towards Europe, as the view in the pendant painting "Die Krabbe" (The Crab) suggests. The English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, depicted as a monstrously distorted crustacean, inactively watches the swimmer, probably a self-portrait of Kokoschka and interpretable as a personification of Czechoslovakia, drown. After the invasion of Poland on September 1, Great Britain finally declared war. After the occupation of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in May/June of the following year, the coast was declared a restricted area, which is why foreigners, including Kokoschka and his wife, had to move inland - back to London.
Throughout his life, Kokoschka repeatedly pursued a good agenda with his art, donating, for example, proceeds from his political paintings to the Free Austrian Movement. This was also the case on the occasion of the flood disaster that devastated the coast of Holland and parts of the coast of Great Britain on the night of January 31, 1953. The unexpected storm flood killed many people and destroyed numerous livelihoods. People all over Europe were shocked and a wave of solidarity in the form of charity events and fundraisers followed. In the Netherlands, artists' associations joined forces and organized an exhibition with a charity lottery. National and international artists contributed 1326 works, including drawings, watercolors, paintings, and sculptures. With contributions from renowned artists such as Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Massimo Campigli, Henri Rouault, Fernand Léger, Germaine Richier, Georges Braque, Henry Moore, and also Kokoschka, the incentive to win a top-class work for a ticket of 1 guilder with a bit of luck increased. Under the title "Kunstenaars helpen", Dutch museums showed a traveling exhibition in the context of which they sold the raffle tickets. Starting at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in mid-February, the exhibition tour ended at the Rijksmuseum in 1954, where Prince Bernhard, chairman of the National Disaster Fund, received the 108,000 guilders collected during the campaign. After the end of the exhibition, the drawing of the lots and the publication of the list of results took place on April 7, 1954. Ticket no. 84104 won artwork no. 1294 - Kokoschka's painting "Private Property" from England. Part of the collection ever since, it is offered here today. [KT]

Oskar Kokoschka
Private Property, 1939/40.
Oil on canvas
€ 120,000 / $ 126,000
€ 304,800 / $ 320,040

(incl. surcharge)