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Die Zeder

Die Zeder
signed with initials 'OK' (lower left)
oil on canvas
31 7⁄8 x 44 ¾ in. (81 x 113.5 cm.)
Painted near Villeneuve in 1958
Dr. Edgar Horstmann, Hamburg, by whom acquired directly from the artist, by 1962.
Private collection, Switzerland, by 1975, and thence by descent to the present owner.
K. Erling, W. Feilchenfeldt & Fondation Oskar Kokoschka, Oskar Kokoschka. Die Gemälde Online (https://www.oskar-kokoschka.ch/de/1020/Online-Werkkatalog), Vevey, no. 1958/5 (illustrated). Accessed on 25 January 2024.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Grosse Kunstausstellung, June - October 1959, no. 576, p. (titled 'Landschaft').
Braunschweig, Haus Salve Hospes, Der späte Kokoschka, January - February 1960, no. 31 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Bremen, Kunsthalle, February - April 1960; Hameln, Kunstkreis, April - Mai 1960 and Pforzheim, Kunst- und Kunstgewerbeverein, May - June 1960.
Copenhagen, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Oskar Kokoschka, October - November 1960, no. 62 (titled 'Zederbaum').
London, Tate Gallery, Kokoschka, September - November 1962, no. 151, p. 48.
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie im Oberen Belvedere, Oskar Kokoschka, zum 85. Geburtstag, April - June 1971, no. 82, p. 51 (titled 'Der Zederbaum').
Hamburg, Kunsthaus & B.A.T-haus, Oskar Kokoschka, Gemälde und Aquarelle seit 1953, Zeichnungen, Druckgrafik, Mosaiken seit 1971, February - May 1975, no. 14, p. 43 (titled 'Der Zedernbaum').
Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Oskar Kokoschka, Oleos y acuarelas dibujos, grabados, mosaicos, May - July 1975, no. 14, p. 44.
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Oskar Kokoschka, Memorial Exhibition, May - June 1981, no. 52, p. 21 (illustrated on p. 75); this exhibition later travelled to London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., June - July 1981.
Vevey, Musée Jenisch, Hommage à Oskar Kokoschka, April - June 1984, no. 40, p. 46.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Oskar Kokoschka, The Late Work, 1953–1980, June - July 1990, no. 4, p. 16 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Following the Second World War, in 1947, Austrian-born Oskar Kokoschka and his wife Olda settled in Switzerland. Near the town of Villeneuve, in the canton of Vaud, they bought a house. Villa Delphi, as they named it, sat on the mountains, overlooking the Alps and Lac Léman. Executed in 1958, Die Zeder presents that landscape which was to become backdrop to the last third of the artist’s life, until his death in Montreux in 1980.

This vigorously delicate vista is an invitation to sight and sense. A mesh of rapid brushstrokes – formless, arbitrary in appearance – conceals the presence of a cedar tree. With a paused look, we untangle the brown and green strokes and realise the conifer’s shape, in fact rendered with detailed vividity. Branches swing, ever-green tips breath. In the present, work Kokoschka brings the cedar to life. With the same attentive eye, the surrounding, rich, alpine landscape is revealed. On the right, a chalet-like roof appears from the soft pasture. On the left, a line of trees leads upwards onto the vast, snow-tipped mountains. Peaks and sky are blue, silver, and white. Below the mountains, the serene mass of the lake.

In the later years of his life, Kokoschka explored the depths of painting, becoming particularly concerned with the implications of seeing and representation. Die Zeder demonstrates Kokoschka’s mature pictorial innovations and is exemplar of his use of the bifocal perspective. A similar Alpine vista from 1956, Glion, vue sur le lac Léman (Musée cantonale des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne), deploys the same compositional paradigm. In both landscapes we find not one, but two focal centres. Kokoschka believed isometric perspective to be somewhat reductive, as ‘man has two eyes’. This compositional resort – embracing and incorporating peripheric sight – enables our gaze is able to surmount and to absorb the entire scene. A more ample representation and a richer visual experience.

Despite living through both World Wars, Kokoschka firmly believed in the transformative power of art. He desired good painting and sincerely knew the exigence of creating good painting. A mission which led him to commit the last part of his life to teaching, founding The School of Vision, in Salzburg , in 1953. Through his exile years in Switzerland, Kokoschka taught thousands of students, promoting his beliefs on art making. His didactic determination continued after his death, as the schools which he established still operate today. Die Zeder embodies this serene and introspective moment in Kokoschka’s art.

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