Having spent much of the 1920s travelling to many of the most important cities and capitals of Europe, the United States, North Africa and the Middle East, Oskar Kokoschka had grown tired of his nomadic lifestyle by the autumn of 1930, settling first in Paris and subsequently in the Viennese outskirts of Liebhartstal (F. Whitford, Oskar Kokoschka: A Life, New York, 1986, pp. 145-151). The present work depicts the city seen from the artist’s home, with trees, a beer garden and local houses in the foreground, and the city’s recognisable skyline visible in the background under a dynamically-rendered, expressive sky.
Although Kokoschka’s life in Liebhartstal was initially uneventful, the atmosphere in Vienna soon changed in what would become an increasingly tumultuous period in both European and Viennese history, and also in Kokoschka’s personal life. Having struggled since the Wall Street crash of 1929, Paul Cassirer, Kokoschka’s dealer, failed to renew his contract in 1931. Later, shortly after the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in Germany in January 1933, Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss dismissed the Austrian parliament to establish a dictatorship. In 1934, a wave of Nazi terrorist attacks followed, during which the Chancellor was assassinated, and Kokoschka soon understood that he would need to flee the country. After his mother passed away in 1934, with no ties left for him with Vienna, he left for Prague, never returning to live in Austria again. Painted in 1933, Wien, Blick vom Liebhartstal II captures, with its uneventful serenity and optimistic colour palette, the calm before the storm of sorts, a fleeting and short-lived peaceful moment in time.