Oskar Kokoschka, Self-Portrait, One Hand Touching the Face, 1918/19 © Leopold Museum, Vienna, Inv. 623

Oskar Kokoschka, Self-Portrait, One Hand touching the Face

1918/19

During his military service on the Isonzo Front in June 1916, Oskar Kokoschka suffered from shell shock, forcing an extended stay in a Dresden sanatorium. This expressive self-portrait was created in the Saxon capital, where he was offered a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1919. It is a visualized autobiographical document of Kokoschka's mental condition during these first Dresden years, which were marked by fears, inner conflict, and restlessness. Kokoschka presents himself with a questioning facial expression and in an ambivalent posture of estrangement and compassion. The hand touching the lips appears as a sign of self-doubt and speechlessness in the face of the tragic events of the First World War.

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