Oskar Kokoschka is born in Pöchlarn on the Danube in Lower Austria on 1 March 1886, the second child of the travelling salesman Gustav Kokoschka (himself from a Prague goldsmith’s family) and of Maria Romana, née Loidl, a forester’s daughter from the Alpine foothills of Steiermark. His childhood is spent in Vienna.
After attending the Staatsrealschule in the Viennese district of Währing, he enters the Vienna School of Decorative Arts in 1904 (today the University of Applied Arts). His first oil paintings date from 1905/06.
Participates in the ‘Kunstschau 1908’ in Vienna. His first poetic work is published: Die träumenden Knaben (‘The dreaming boys’), with eight colour lithographs. He paints his first landscape in Budmerice in today’s Slovakia (though at the time it still belonged to Hungary and was known as ‘Pudmericz’).
Participates in the ‘Internationale Kunstschau 1909’ in Vienna. World première of his drama Mörder Hoffnung der Frauen (‘Murderer, the Hope of Women’).
On 8 January, Kokoschka travels to Switzerland in the footsteps of his sponsor and patron, the architect Adolf Loos. In Les Avants near Montreux he paints the landscape Les Dents du Midi. In Yvorne he paints the portrait of the Swiss natural scientist Auguste Forel. In the sanatorium of Leysin, he paints the portraits of aristocrats suffering from tuberculosis.
Travels to Berlin in order to support Herwarth Walden in editing Der Sturm. Walden’s progressive journal publishes numerous drawings by Kokoschka and his drama Mörder Hoffnung der Frauen.
In January, he gives the lecture ‘Vom Bewusstsein der Gesichte’ (‘On the awareness of visions’). He begins a love affair with Alma Mahler. From October onwards he is for a year Anton von Kenner’s assistant for nude drawing at the Vienna School of Decorative Arts.
Travels to Italy with Alma Mahler, subsequently begins work on the Windsbraut (‘Bride of the wind’). Illustrates Die chinesische Mauer (‘The Chinese Wall’) by Karl Kraus and his own novella Der gefesselte Kolumbus (‘The captive Columbus’).
Provides fresco designs for a crematorium in Breslau, whose construction is prevented by the outbreak of the First World War.
Separation from Alma Mahler. Volunteers for military service with the 15th Imperial Dragoons’ Regiment. On the Ukrainian front, a bullet to the head and a bayonet to the chest leave him severely injured.
The Munich doll maker Hermine Moos creates a life-size doll in the form of Alma Mahler, which serves Kokoschka as a model in his studio in Dresden. His stage works Der brennende Dornbusch (‘The Burning Thorn-bush’) and Hiob are performed at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. Appointed Professor at the Academy in Dresden.
Travels to Zurich in order to prepare his exhibition at the Wolfsberg Art Salon. He then travels on to Lucerne and Montreux, staying in Les Avants and Blonay, where he paints two views of Lake Geneva.
Extended travels take Kokoschka back and forth across Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa and finally lead to the annulment of his contract with the Dresden Academy. In 1927, the Zurich Kunsthaus puts on the hitherto biggest-ever solo exhibition of Kokoschka’s work.
Extended sojourns in Paris. Kokoschka makes several drawings of the American dancer Mary Meerson.
Travels to Prague, where he becomes acquainted with his future wife, Oldriska-Aloisie (known as ‘Olda’) in the house of her father, the lawyer Karel Bretislav Palkovsky.
Paints a portrait of the founding president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš G. Masaryk. Their friendship results in Kokoschka’s acquiring Czech citizenship.
Prints a poster with a call to aid Basque children in reaction to the bombing of Guernica. He is represented by eight works at the Munich exhibition of ‘degenerate’ art, Entartete Kunst.
Represented by 22 works at the exhibition Twentieth Century German Art in London. At Olda’s prompting he flees with her to England from the advancing National Socialists.
Founds the Free German League of Culture in London. In the Grand Hotel National in Lucerne, the art dealer Theodor Fischer auctions off 125 works of art confiscated from German museums, including nine paintings by Kokoschka. The Kunstmuseum of Basel acquires the Bride of the wind in Berlin. Moves to Polperro (Cornwall). Begins work on the painting The Crab (London, Tate Gallery), which is an allegory of England’s stance towards Czechoslovakia.
Marries Olda in Hampstead. Stays in Elrig near Port William in Scotland, where he makes many crayon drawings.
Visits Ullapool in Ross-shire, where he makes further crayon drawings. In Elrig, he becomes acquainted with the schoolgirl Minona Margarita McEwen, who comes originally from South America. He makes portraits of her in crayon and one in oils.
In the winter, Kokoschka has his poster Christ helps the starving children hung in the London tube stations in order to support the call to donate to charity against hunger.
Receives British citizenship. In April: A Kokoschka retrospective opens in the Basel Kunsthalle, which moves to the Zurich Kunsthaus in the following summer. In Sierre he paints Werner Reinhart’s portrait and several landscapes of the mountains of Canton Valais, including two views of the Matterhorn.
Participates in the 24th Biennale in Venice, with 16 paintings. Kokoschka paints a self-portrait in Fiesole, then city views in Florence. Exhibition in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
5 May – 15 July: Visits Rome. There, in the house of the German archaeologist Ludwig Curtius, he becomes acquainted with the composer and conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. Kokoschka retrospective in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
He paints the Prometheus triptych commissioned by Count Antoine Seilern for the entrance hall ceiling of his London house at 56 Princes Gate on Exhibition Road, South Kensington.
Opening of the International Summer Academy, in which Kokoschka gives classes entitled ‘School of seeing’. After the end of the course, he draws a series of crayon nudes. He moves into the Villa Delphin in Villeneuve.
He paints the Thermopylae triptych for Hamburg University and in August a portrait of the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals in the Hotel Bellevue in Sierre.
Production of Mozart’s Magic Flute in the Felsenreitschule (‘Rock riding school’) in Salzburg, with stage designs and costumes by Kokoschka.
At the beginning of the year, he makes a tour of Greece. In the autumn, he designs costumes and sets for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, which, however, does not come about.
Works on the set and costume designs for Ferdinand Raimund’s Moisasurs Zauberfluch (‘The Magic Curse of Moisasur’). Awarded the Erasmus Prize in Copenhagen. Honorary doctorate from Oxford University. Set designs for a performance of his play Orpheus and Eurydice in the Atelier-Theater am Naschmarkt in Vienna.
Travels through Greece, during which Kokoschka prepares the lithographs of the series Bekenntnis zu Hellas (‘Homage to Hellas’) and makes crayon drawings of ancient monuments.
At the Burgtheater in Vienna, Kokoschka works on the décor for Ferdinand Raimund’s Die gefesselte Phantasie (‘The Fettered Imagination’). In the British Museum, he fills a sketchbook with crayon drawings after the Bassae Frieze. Kokoschka retrospective in the Tate Gallery in London.
Illustrates Shakespeare’s King Lear. Kokoschka designs the sets and costumes for a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Masked Ball given in the Teatro Comunale at the 26th Florence May Festival. On a journey through Apulia, Kokoschka sketches the lithograph series Apulia.
Travels to Morocco, where Kokoschka draws the lithographs of the series Marrakesh. At the Lucerne Festival, he draws portraits of the Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter.
19 October: Opening night in Geneva of Mozart’s Magic Flute with Kokoschka’s décor.
In Cadenabbia, he paints the portrait of the former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Kokoschka retrospective in the Zurich Kunsthaus. At the request of the publisher Axel Springer, he paints a view of East Berlin from the Axel Springer Skyscraper. Draws the lithographs of the series Saul and David.
Works on his illustrations for the comedy The Frogs by Aristophanes. In preparation for this series, Kokoschka draws frogs from nature in Gstaad.
Begins the painting Mal’Occhio as a reference to his failing eyesight. Travels to Israel, where he draws the portraits for his series Jerusalem Faces. Founding of the Association for the Research and Documentation of the Work of Oskar Kokoschka, based in the house where he was born in Pöchlarn. Lithographs for the Trojan Women by Euripides.
Honorary citizenship of Austria. Good Friday: the consecration of his mosaic Ecce Homines in the Church of St Nicholas in Hamburg. For a film of his Comenius dramas by Gyula Trebitsch and Stanislav Barabas, Kokoschka draws scenes from the life of the Moravian pedagogue.
Illustrations for Knut Hamsun’s novel Pan and for the short story Einstein überquert die Elbe bei Hamburg (‘Einstein Crosses the Elbe near Hamburg’) by Siegfried Lenz.
22 February: dies in the Montreux clinic.
Olda Kokoschka gives her husband’s written archives to the Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Right until her death, she continues to make further donations of manuscripts acquired at auction or from antiquarian book dealers.
1 February: Olda Kokoschka founds the ‘Fondation à la mémoire de Oskar Kokoschka’, based in Vevey, and provides it with pictures from her possession. In the years thereafter, she expands the collection by gifts and purchases.
22 June: Death of Olda Kokoschka