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Sommer I

Sommer I
signed with initials ‘OK’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
43 ¾ x 55 5⁄8 in. (111.2 x 141 cm.)
Painted in 1922
Kunstsalon Paul Cassirer, Berlin, by whom acquired directly from the artist on 6 October 1922.
Fritz Güttler, Schloß Deschkendorf, by whom acquired on 13 December 1922.
Karl Wilhelm Zitzmann, Erlangen.
Kunstsalon Paul Cassirer, Berlin & Galerie Georg Caspari, Munich, by whom acquired on 28 September 1923.
Benkenkamp, by whom acquired on 10 January 1925.
Private collection, South Germany; sale, Kunstsalon Paul Cassirer, Berlin, 3 March 1925, lot 82 (illustrated).
Hermann Lange, Krefeld, by whom acquired on 2 November 1925, and thence by descent to the present owner.
P. Westheim, Oskar Kokoschka: Das Werk Kokoschkas in 135 Abbildungen, Berlin, 1925 (illustrated pl. 95).
C. Einstein, Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, Berlin, 1928, pp. 160 & 565 (illustrated p. 439).
W. Cohen, ‘Haus Lange in Krefeld‘, in Museum der Gegenwart, vol. I, no. 4, Berlin, 1931 (illustrated p. 162).
H. Platschek, Oskar Kokoschka, Buenos Aires, 1946, no. 27, p. 76 (illustrated pl. 27).
E. Hoffmann, Kokoschka: Life and Work, London, 1947, no. 120, pp. 160 & 308 (titled 'Summer - Woman Recumbent').
F. Schmalenbach, ‘Zu Kokoschkas malerischer Entwicklung‘, in Oskar Kokoschka, exh. cat., Basel, 1947, p. 15.
H. M. Wingler, Oskar Kokoschka: Das Werk des Malers, Salzburg, 1956, no. 148, p. 310 (illustrated pl. 53).
F. Schmalenbach, Oskar Kokoschka, London, 1968, p. 56 (illustrated).
E. Baum, ‘“Mutter und Kind": Ein Hauptwerk der Dresdener Zeit Oskar Kokoschkas', in Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Galerie, vol. 15, no. 59, Vienna, 1971, no. 72, p. 182 (illustrated pl. 72).
D. Schmidt, ''Bitte mit dem Weltkrieg aufzuhören, ich möchte arbeiten'. Oskar Kokoschka in Dresden 1916 bis 1923’, in Pantheon, vol. 44, Munich, 1986, p. 132 (illustrated fig. 12).
B. Dalbajewa, ‘Zwei Werke von Oskar Kokoschka in der Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister', in Dresdener Kunstblätter. Zweimonatsschrift der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden, vol. 39, no. 6, 1995, pp. 189 & 193 (illustrated p. 193).
J. Winkler & K. Erling, Oskar Kokoschka, Die Gemälde 1906-1929, Salzburg, 1995, no. 163, pp. 97 & 98 (illustrated p. 98).
U. Bischoff, J. Metz & E. Hipp eds., Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister, Berlin, 2001, p. 107 (illustrated).
H. Spielmann, Oskar Kokoschka. Leben und Werk, Cologne, 2003, p. 213.
E. Frommhold & G. Söder, ‘Expressionismus in Dresden - Ursprung und Wandlungen', in Dresdner Geschichtsbuch, no. 12, Altenburg, 2007, p. 179 (illustrated).
C. Lange, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Lilly Reich: Möbel und Räume, Ostfildern, 2007, p. 37 (illustrated in situ, fig. 17).
B. Dalbajewa, 'Hans Posse und die "Moderne Galerie"', in Galerie Neue Meister Dresden, vol. I, Cologne, 2010, p. 376 (illustrated p. 375).
B. Dalbajewa, ‘Oskar Kokoschka‘, in Das neue Albertinum: Kunst von der Romantik bis zur Gegenwart, Berlin & Munich, 2010, pp. 140 & 141 (illustrated p. 141).
B. Dalbajewa, ‘Kokoschka in Dresden. Beziehungsgeflechte und Stimmungslagen. Aus Briefen des Künstlers', in exh. cat., Kokoschka als Zeichner: Die Sammlung Willy Hahn, Dresden, 2011, no. 5, p. 43 (illustrated).
M. Giebe, 'Maler und Modell, Farbe und Licht. Beobachtungen zur Kokoschkas Malweise' in Patrimonia 380, Dresden, 2015, p. 50 (illustrated pl. 27, p. 52).
H. Delfs, Kokoschkas Selbstbildnisse aus dem Jahr 1923. Eine Bildmonographie – und Detektivgeschichte, Dresden, 2015, p. 21 (illustrated pp. 5, 20 & 78).
K. Erling, W. Feilchenfeldt & Fondation Oskar Kokoschka (ed.), Oskar Kokoschka. Die Gemälde Online (https://www.oskar-kokoschka.ch/en/1020/Online-catalogue), Vevey, no. 1922/9 (illustrated). Accessed in January 2024.
Berlin, Galerie Paul Cassirer, Oskar Kokoschka, March - July 1923.
Berlin, Galerie Goldschmidt-Wallerstein, Oskar Kokoschka, March - April 1924, no. 110 (illustrated).
Berlin, Akademie der Künste, Frühjahrsausstellung, May - June 1924, no. 110, p. 13 (illustrated).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Ausstellung Oskar Kokoschka, June - July 1927, no. 54.
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Europäische Kunst der Gegenwart. Zentenar-Ausstellung des Kunstvereins Hamburg, October 1927, no. 293, p. 50.
Cologne, Kunstsalon Hermann Abels, Kokoschka-Ausstellung, March - April 1929, no. 24.
Recklinghausen, Kunsthalle, Deutsche und französische Kunst der Gegenwart, June - July 1950, no. 127 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Oskar Kokoschka. Aus seinem Schaffen, 1907-1950, September - October 1950, no. 45, p. 55 (illustrated p. 21; titled 'Sommer - liegende Frau' and dated '1918-20'); this exhibition later travelled to Hamburg, Kunsthalle, November - December 1950; and Mannheim, Kunsthalle, January 1951.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Art in Revolt. Germany 1905–25, October - November 1959, no. 40, p. 62 (illustrated p. 73).
London, Tate Gallery, Kokoschka, A retrospective exhibition of paintings, drawings, lithographs, stage designs and books, September - November 1962, no. 65, pp. 35 & 36.
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Oskar Kokoschka, December 1962 - January 1963, no. 32 (illustrated).
Recklinghausen, Kunsthalle, Gesammelt im Ruhrgebiet: Kunstwerke aus drei Jahrtausenden, May - July 1963, no. 136 (illustrated).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Oskar Kokoschka, June - July 1966, no. 45, p. 30.
Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, on long-term loan from 1980 until 1995.
Dresden, Albertinum, Kokoschka und Dresden, September - December 1996, no. 29, p. 140 (illustrated p. 141); this exhibition later travelled to Vienna, Belvedere, Kokoschka und Wien, December 1996 - March 1997.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Oskar Kokoschka: Expressionist, Migrant, European. A Retrospective, December 2018 - March 2019, no. 46, p. 297 (illustrated pp. 152 & 153).
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Galerie Neue Meister, on long-term loan, from 1995 until 2022.
Kochel am See, Franz Marc Museum, on loan from 2022 until 2023.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

In the aftermath of his experiences serving on the frontlines during the First World War, which had left their mark both mentally and physically, Oskar Kokoschka settled in Dresden, taking up a position as art professor at the city’s Academy. At this time, he was considered the leading Austrian modern artist, following the deaths of both Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt in 1918 – indeed, upon hearing the news of Klimt’s passing, Kokoschka wrote to his mother ‘I cried for poor Klimt, the only Austrian artist who had talent and character. Now I am the successor’ (quoted in F. Whitford, Oskar Kokoschka: A Life, New York, 1986, p. 128).

Through the early 1920s, Kokoschka boldly experimented and pushed the boundaries of his painterly style as he embraced his new position within the European avant-garde, and sought to solidify his position as a key Expressionist painter. However, he no longer felt that he was in tune with many of his contemporaries, most notably the artists involved in DADA – eschewing their revolutionary aims and tactics of disruption, Kokoschka instead looked further into the past for inspiration, searching for an art that was modern, and yet retained an essential sense of permanence and longevity.

Sommer I belongs to an important series of allegorical and biblical paintings which occupied Kokoschka’s imagination during this pivotal period of his career, and included works such as Saul und David (Winkler and Erling, no. 161; 1920-1922), Jakob, Rachel und Lea (Winkler and Erling, no. 166; 1922/23), and Lot und seine Töchter (Winkler and Erling, no. 162; 1921/1922). Rather than focusing on the religious narrative in these canvases, or moments of extreme tension and high drama, Kokoschka instead adopted a more humanist approach, centring on the key characters within each story, their fundamental emotions and reactions to events. The present composition was originally titled Abishag, a reference to the youthful, innocent female companion and carer of King David during his final years, who used her own body heat to warm the elderly king and keep him alive. The very embodiment of youthful beauty and vitality, here the female figure is shown freed from her duties and responsibilities, as she revels in the warmth of the summer heat, reclining amid a verdant landscape. Most likely modelled on the features of his then-girlfriend, Anna Kallin, the young woman in Sommer I echoes a number of art historical and classical precedents in her pose and form.

Throughout his career, Kokoschka was profoundly influenced by the great masters of European art history, from Rubens to Rembrandt, Titian to Michelangelo. While a trip to Italy in the spring of 1922 provided Kokoschka with an opportunity to immerse himself in the paintings of the Italian Renaissance, it was the collections of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden that provided the most important source of inspiration during these years. ‘In my walks from home to the Academy I never failed to visit the museum,’ he later recalled. ‘A number of masterpieces there became signposts on my way. With the outside world in chaos, I kept my bearings thanks entirely to those artists of the past who had revealed how to order experience as part of the spiritual life’ (Oskar Kokoschka: My Life, trans. by D. Britt, New York, 1974, p. 113).

In particular, Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus proved an essential touchpoint, and several scholars have drawn parallels between the compositional arrangement and colour palette of Sommer I and the Venetian artist’s masterpiece. At the same time, Sommer I holds a close affinity to Henri Matisse’s revolutionary Nu bleu: Souvenir de Biskra (Baltimore Museum of Art, 1907), which transformed traditional conceptions of the reclining female nude through a distinctly modern visual language, describing the model’s features and sinuous curves in vibrant tones of blue. Kokoschka adopts a similar pose and exterior setting in Sommer I, his central character echoing Matisse’s figure as she turns towards the viewer, one leg crossed over the other to hold herself steady as she raises an arm over her head and reaches for the vibrant scarlet shawl that sits nearby.

Perhaps the most notable feature of Sommer I is Kokoschka’s bold, gestural application of his pigments, which conveys a sense of the delicate curves of the female form and the fall of light and shadow across her body in an intricate pattern of overlapping passages of brushwork. In contrast to other Expressionists, such as Emil Nolde or Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Kokoschka’s method was more methodical and less spontaneous, as he sought to create a sense of depth and space through an overtly flat treatment of his materials. Using clear, directional strokes of pigment in an array of vibrant, glowing colours, Kokoschka builds his scenes through thick layers of paint, creating a semi-abstract play of colour across the surface of the canvas, that shifts under our gaze, slowly revealing the reclining woman to us.

Sommer I was purchased by Hermann Lange in late 1925, and was the first painting by Kokoschka to enter his esteemed collection. A silk manufacturer and industrialist based in Krefeld, Lange was an early member of the Deutscher Werkbund, an association of German architects, designers, and manufacturers, who set out to improve the aesthetic qualities of industrial design. He was also an avid supporter of modern art, frequenting galleries in Berlin and Paris, and purchasing works by a variety of French and German avant-garde artists. By 1930 he had assembled a collection of more than 300 paintings and sculptures, acquiring works by the leading figures of Die Brücke, Der Blaue Reiter and the Bauhaus, as well as paintings by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris.

In 1927, together with his business partner Josef Esters, Lange commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design two adjacent residences in Krefeld, in the architect’s highly modernist style. Many elements of the resulting Haus Lange were specifically designed with its owner’s art collection in mind – photographs from 1930 show Kokoschka’s Sommer I on display in the vast vestibule of Haus Lange, alongside works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Marc Chagall and Wilhelm Lehmbruck. Positioned almost adjacent to the front door to the house, Sommer I was among the first artworks that greeted visitors when they arrived, a powerful testament to Lange’s profound passion for modern art.

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