Friday, March 01, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Oskar Kokoschka

Born this day, 1 March, in 1886 was expressionist artist, poet and playwright Oskar Kokoschka - trips off the tongue rather well! He was born in Pöchlarn on the Danube in Austria, another artist who fought in World War 1, and had to flee from Europe to Britain at the start of World War 2.

Kokoschka was seriously wounded in the First World War, and taken prisoner. He suffered a head injury and a bayonet wound to the lung, spent a period of convalescence in Vienna, but was then sent to the Isonzo Front, where his health, mental and physical, broke down. He went to Stockholm to consult a brain specialist and then to Dresden to try to recover his health.

Events before his military service probably fed into the deterioration from physical injuries. He had carried on a tempestuous love affair with Alma, widow of Gustav Mahler. The affair had ended, but his obsession led him to commission a life-sized doll to replace Alma - complete and life-like in all details, which he treated like a living companion - it has even been said that he escorted it to the opera.

After the end of the war the political situation in Dresden was unstable. Kokoschka formed part of a small, left-wing bohemian group. In the liberal climate of 1919 he was officially appointed Professor at the Dresden Academy.

After teaching at the art academy in Dresden (1919-24), Kokoschka travelled extensively in Europe and N Africa. In 1937 his works were removed from German galleries by the Nazis, who considered his work degenerate. He moved to London in 1938, but wasn't happy there. Subject matter of his paintings at this time became political and often critical of his host country, Britain. After World War II he moved to Switzerland, established an international summer school in Salzburg.
He died in 1980.

The Bride of the Wind or The Tempest (Windsbraut)1913-1914. Kokoschka's best known work, an allegorical picture featuring a self-portrait by the artist, lying alongside his lover Alma Mahler. Kokoschka met Mahler, then recently widowed from Gustav Mahler, in 1912. A passionate romance ensued, with the artist producing numerous drawings and paintings of Mahler. The painting depicts Mahler in a peaceful sleep beside Kokoschka, who is awake and stares into space. The couple's break-up in 1914 had a profound effect on Kokoschka, whose expressive brushwork grew more turbulent.
(See HERE)

Knight Errant In the Vienna of 1914, a woman having an abortion was cause for scandal, even within the confines of the relatively open-minded art world. When such a woman was the widow of a famous composer, unwed, and carrying on two love affairs simultaneously, her decision would alarm even the most sympathetic souls. Thus it is that the agonized knight errant of Oskar Kokoschka’s painting is to this day read as an expression of the artist’s pain over the death of an unborn child and the crumbling of his relationship with the fascinating, and quite unrepentant, Alma Mahler.

The central figure appears to be a self-portrait of Kokoschka, clad in the armor of a medieval knight. He lies errant, or lost, in a stormy landscape, his two attributes—a winged bird-man and a sphinxlike woman—in close proximity. The bird-man has been interpreted either as the figure of death or another self-portrait, while the sphinx-woman has been seen as a stand-in for Mahler. A funereal sky bears the letters “E S,” which probably refer to Christ’s lament, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” (“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”) As if the self-equivalence with chivalry and the martyred Christ were not enough, the agitated brushwork and disturbing composition convince us of Kokoschka’s spiritual discomfort.
Cornelia Lauf (See HERE)

The Duomo, Florence.

The Loreley (1941/2) title refers to a mythical Rhine maiden, who lured sailors to their death. Kokoschka explained that his painting mocks British claims to maritime supremacy: "Britannia no longer rules the waves; inaction has lasted too long; an octopus swims away with a trident, the emblem of marine power. Queen Victoria, who built up the British fleet into a dominant position, rides a shark and stuffs white, brown and black sailors into its mouth. Only the frog on her hand refuses to accept the same fate: it represents Ireland, where there are no reptiles except frogs". (See HERE)

Marianne-Maquis: 1942 was a year of deadlock during the Second World War. Whilst the Soviet Union was battling the Nazis in the East, there were repeated calls for British and American governments to launch a Second Front in Western Europe. In Marianne-Maquis, Kokoschka vents his criticism of the allies’ delay by showing British war leaders Winston Churchill and General Montgomery drinking tea in the Café de Paris in Soho. The central figure is Marianne, the traditional personification of France, now linked to the ‘Maquis’, the French Resistance. (See HERE)

Anschluss - Alice in Wonderland (1942) addresses the German annexation of Austria; the painting also contains symbolic elements suggested by the second part of the title. In the background, Kokoschka’s former city, Vienna, is engulfed in flames. Wien is inscribed on a building. People are running rampant through the city streets, suggesting that the cultural capital of the former Austrian Empire might soon be reduced to this sort of social destruction. In the right foreground of the painting, a youthful nude with plaited blond hair stands erect. She symbolizes Austria and serves as a visual contrapposto to Hitler’s Aryan ideal. This is not the healthy, robust model seen so often in Nazi propaganda—her figure is disproportionate and her pose is awkward. This is, perhaps, another attempt at satirizing a contemporary, political event. In an attempt at modesty, she reaches with her left arm to cover herself with a fig leaf, alluding to classical statuary and humanist traditions. Kokoschka has placed her inside a pen of barbed wire, separating her from the chaos on the streets. Her right arm is extended outward and she points with one finger directly at the viewer, a warning to Kokoschka’s British audience that this sort of thing could happen to them, as well, if not more careful about their policy-making. (Information from pdf HERE)

What We Are Fighting For : (1943) According to Kokoschka, of all the political allegories completed during his time in London this one was the one he “meant most seriously.” He discusses the iconography of the composition:    A bishop is blessing the troops, and with his free hand is dropping a penny into the Red Cross collecting-box; an endless procession of prisoners file along with hands raised; in a rickshaw pulled by Gandhi sit the Governor of the Bank of England, the President of the Reichsbank, and a Marshal of France; in the foreground lies a starving mother holding an emaciated child who is playing with a rat. The prospering American munitions industry appears as a globe-like monster with two levers for arms, one pulling out a blue rabbit, signifying peace, as an emblem of hope for the future, while the other crams human bones into the armaments machine which turns them into cartridges. In the right foreground stands a bust of Voltaire with the inscription CANDIDE, i.e., ‘the best of all possible worlds’....... we can assume that simply creating something interesting to look at was not Kokoschka’s intent. His goal was to teach.

More paintings HERE and via Google Image.


(12 noon chart shown as no time of birth is available.)
I noticed, somewhere in my searches, a reference to the artist as a "Sensitive Titan", his Sun and Mercury in Pisces reflects sensitivity, but in general he seems to have experienced discomfort rather than joy from his sensitive nature.
I see this discomfort represented by the opposition of Mars to Sun/Mercury; Mars possibly representing "The Titan"? Venus in Aquarius, and Uranus conjunct Jupiter both link to Kokoschka's non-establishment politcally-aware side, and perhaps his rather unruly Aquarian Venus led him into the affair with Alma Mahler which eventually cost him much pain. Moon would have been in Capricorn, whatever his birth time, and it probably is in line to form a Grand Trine in Earth with Neptune and Mars - connecting to both his creativity and "The Titan" in him. It's rather strange he has no planet in a Fire sign.


mike said...

I'm sure Oskar Kokoschka would have made an interesting neighbor! His Alma surrogate doll would have been a conversation starter.

It has been my experience that individuals that have planets close to the Moon's nodes tend to have peculiarities about their personality. South node seems to present difficulties with becoming stuck and not moving beyond situations with the energy representation of the particular conjunct planet. North node presents situations just beyond reach. Both of his nodes have active conjunctions. He was born just days prior to the annular solar eclipse March 5, 1886, which makes his node conjunctions more energized than usual.

I like his "The Duomo, Florence", as it's the most straight-forward, non-politicizing painting of the ones you show here...a little nervous, but I like the colors he selected.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ His Alma doll gave a whole new meaning to Alma Mater!

I like the Bride of the Wind painting best - love the colours.
I concentrated on showing the wartime paintings here as I thought it was interesting to see the way he had chosen to depict situations symbolically. Most of his portraits and landscapes are pleasant enough, but nothing memorable - for me anyway.

Hmmm- Moon's nodes are interesting, but I'm never sure that without time of day they'll be shown correctly for the individual in a 12 noon chart (do you know?)

I have Uranus exactly conjunct South node - how about that - am I stuck in eccentricity? LOL! ;-)

mike (again) said...

Alma Mater! LOL

The nodes travel about 0.05 degrees per day...however...they have a retrograde-forward movement due to a minor wobble. Some days they move forward faster, then retrograde. This is why "true node" or "mean node" is provided in ephemera. Their rate of transit is so slow that, yes, you can definitely use their position in a noon-chart. It takes about 18 months for the nodes to transit 30 degrees (one sign)...about 18.5 years to transit the entire 12 signs, 360 degrees. The nodes net movement is always retrograde...moving through the signs backward.

I'll let you determine whether you're stuck in eccentricity! Eccentricity isn't a bad thing, but I'm fairly eccentric, so maybe not the best judge. Are other planets in aspect to node-Uranus?

Excerpt from
"Uranus conjunct South Node: eccentric, placing environment under high voltage, highly disruptive, of original nature and strong connection with 'intuitive knowledge' to social/collective improvements."

Excerpt from
"Uranus conjunct South Node: This individual is likely to feel threatened in regards to their own originality or individuality. They may squelch their rebellious urges or overdo them. They experience a push and pull between dependency and independence, between home and the wider world or between family and friends. Learning to have emotional ties without possessiveness and to make open-ended commitments is key to this person's development."

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Thanks for that - hmmmm - 2nd one doesn't sound a lot like me; first one slightly, but I'm hardly highly disruptive!

Closest aspect would be Saturn in Aries 1 degree off exact semi-sextile. Jupiter and Sun in Pisces and Aquarius respectively are 7 degrees off aspect so I'd not count those, not regarding Nodes anyway.

Only thing I've noted about Node position for me is that I've experienced changes in life pattern at the full cycle and half cycle points (also the Vertex cycle). I did a post about it in detail some years ago - will try to find it later.

mike (again) said...

Your Saturn semi-sextile South Node is the same as Saturn quincunx North Node. This indicates to me that your South Node is the easier flow of your Saturn...getting hung-up on South Node patterns would enhance the Uranus-South Node conjunction, at the detriment of North Node direction. South Node is typically viewed as habituation of inherent, subconscious patterns that we have a tendency to re-live over and over, because it's so familiar to our essence. With Saturn's presence, you will have more difficult lessons, but those very lessons can more quickly free you, too...the repercussions are greater.

Reading about the Nodes would make one think that North is positive and where we need to strive, South is negative and what needs to be left behind for progress. I can't argue that, but I view it as more complex. It's entirely possible to effectively acknowledge and participate in the South Node...even indulge in the South Node. Whatever we can constructively pursue with the South Node, we have likewise done the same for the North Node, without really addressing the North Node...they are polar reflections.

We tend to learn from pain and suffering and the South Node is usually that sweet spot. It's the cookie jar with the mouse trap in it, and we never remember the mouse trap each time we open the jar...but it can be done with constant mental awareness and approach to overcome the self-inflicted repercussions. Pain does wonders!

Kokoschka's chart has Mercury on his South Node...Mercury is conjunct Sun by five degrees, so I would say his Sun is drawn into the South Node via Mercury. All this is opposed his North Node conjunct Mars. Don't know what houses are involved, because of noon chart. Kokoschka probably presented a strong ego as a cover, perhaps arrogant in his expression...he lacked vitality and the male force and perhaps made-up for it through his Sun-Mercury-S Node perception of self (over inflated self-awareness)...depression is usually a result of too much self-focus. His art allowed him to express his aggressive views in a fashion that was non-confrontational...he did it for himself, then presented it to the world. Your Alma Mater (!) doll would have been that same in-your-face quiet aggression. His lesson, in my opinion, was to instill life-force vitality, assert or comprehend masculinity, and communicate in direct fashion...with emphasis on the house placements.

If you should believe in Progressed charts, his fourth, fifth, and sixth years of life would have been fraught with some of the same attributes of the above paragraph, perhaps in a violent, raging, or shocking fashion. His progressed Sun and Moon would have conjuncted his Mercury-node at the same time as a solar eclipse...all opposed Mars-node. Father, males, masculinity vs ego, self, communication.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Will study your words later today - thank you, lots to chew on! We'll be out for a few hours, gotta trot now.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Nodes are a foggy part of astrology, I think. Some astrologers go overboard with 'em so much so that I eventually came to the conclusion that, to be on the safe side, the Nodes should be treated only as sensitive points in the chart, probably less important than ascendant and midheaven, but significant if touched by planets significant in that person's chart.
Your views are more easily accepted, though I'm still not totally convinced that Nodes are all THAT significant. It's hard to differentiate or identify which various traits and reactions relate to which part or element of the chart - all a bit nebulous.

Progressions - I've never felt the validity of progressions.
It's possible to play around with a natal chart in so many ways as to "make anything mean anything" which is bad for astrology. So I decided to stick to simplicity. If the simple works - that's all I need to know. The deeper and more complex one tries to delve into it, the more chance of misunderstandings and a result of total fiction arises, in my opinion.
But what do I know? Not a lot!

I'll fish out my old post on Nodes and re-post it updated a bit sometime next week.

Thanks for all your input here - re Oskar Kokoschka. A bit of an oddity, and an enigma, I suspect he was....prone to excess and obsession. I wonder if he had Scorpio rising or Pluto on the ascendant? I have Pluto in 1st myself and in my youth could have been accused of being prone to obsession, though I never had a doll made - I promise! :-)

mike (again) said...

I tried to find info about his childhood, but not much out there. I did find this tidbit:

"Relatively little is actually known of Kokoschka's childhood and adolescence; the family was impoverished and moved frequently. He recalled, however, what he considered a traumatic experience, which presumably influenced his later unconscious fantasy life. He described accidentally witnessing the bloody birth of his younger brother; he felt this shock had permanently impaired his ability to get along with others (Weldon, 2007)."


You're a movie buff...Alma's story is "Bride of the Wind" on DVD!

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Ah! Thanks, hadn't come across either that piece or new of the movie. I'll look around for a cheapo VHS or DVD of it.

Living through 2 World Wars, being seriously injured in one and having to flee from the other would also have affected this artist - as it did so many other painters, poets and writers.
Hard to imagine what it must have been like for people such as Kokoschka. Talk about PTSD !!