MY LIFE by Oskar Kokoschka


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The leading German Expressionist (a label he found meaningless -- ""There is no such thing as German, French or Anglo-American Expressionism: there are only young people trying to find their bearings in the world."") looks back on his life -- he is now 85. The gentle and unmistakably genuine simplicity of Kokoschka's autobiography, randomly remembered and sometimes later repeating experiences earlier described, is in quiet contrast to his work -- the turbulent, often hallucinatory landscapes in furioso colors. The overall effect is uneventful save for a passionate three-year affair with Alma Mahler, the war wound of WW I, emigration to England during WW II, and the stippling of famous people from distinguished walks of life (Adenauer or the influential architect Loos, Dorothy Thompson or Nancy Cunard) are passenger references at most. What the work professes most notably is Kokoschka's belief that ""man is the measure of all things,"" his artistic conviction that ""Theories. . . lead nowhere. Imagination is the only guide,"" and his perhaps overreaching (to those who are not so gifted) statement that ""The expression of true humanity is given to art alone."" All however a significant part of his benign, somewhat naive but sincere credo of enlightenment.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1974
Publisher: Macmillan