Oskar Kokoschka: Letter excerpts

The artist is the intense center of his age.–James Joyce

In order  for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing. –Edward Burke

Apres moi, le deluge. – True Outsider

Last month, a Climate Central study found that coastal flooding days have more than doubled in the US since the 1980s. March 14  Guardian

From the letters of Oskar Kokoshcka:

November, 1973

…Look after yourselves, all of you, and let’s hope at least for an end to this senseless war, which is decimating the youth of Israel without having any effect on the fate due to befall all modern civilization and its mechanization, which is destroying humanism.


…There used to be creative individuals in the visual arts, but that’s all finished. The arts put up no resistance, nor do the spiritual and intellectual movements of our time, which isn’t even good enough to have descended from apes. The poor gorillas are dying out and the guerillas are multiplying! … Think of life being as short as a match, which is struck, burns your finger and goes out before the finger starts hurting…. I embrace the bishop warmly, good luck to him, because he still believes in a god. After all, God was really one of the most progressive ideas mankind ever had!

April 1975

I’d be perfectly content with this world, if there was any hope of it’s lasting a good long time. I’m in no hurry! There’s still a lot I could do. .. Painting might do the world more good-or the art-dealers, at any rate–but it looks as if they will have to go over to the abstract junk, because painting is dying out. Poor Utopians, born too late, but how can art and love of life survive in this rotten climate,..?

c. 1975

Not being a Utopian, I do not look through the same glass as the progressives! Without prejudice: what a wonderful world we live in, if only we would open our eyes! Unfortunately, it is given to most people only to hear what others say. Most of the friends I have had in my long life were not given enough time to experience the spellbinding reality of existence, which far outstrips all fairy tales, all follies and superstitions of the past. They went to heaven–or hell: soon there will not be much to choose between the two, once no one feels curiosity any more about what becomes of us, once there is nothing left to wonder at, once our world is the world-stat of amoebae and infusoria: only skeptics can no longer be surprised!

I think especially of the young people of Germany, who may perhaps gather from my fleeting steps in the quicksand of time that all of this is to be found in the newspapers every day, if one only stops to read, for I am neither a romantic nor a psychopath.

November, 1949

…the fallacies of the mode of thought professing rationalization could mislead man to exchange the faith in his immortal soul, participating in creation, for a notion of a machine-minded world, in which his Ego has no right of existence. Riding on the crest of the wave of the nationalist movement, he more and more lost contact with humanity and will end as a number in the statistics of a totalitarian state.

August, 1949

He keeps on asking me which is the better painter, Matisse (they own a huge odalisque by him with a few blots and brushstrokes) or Derain (there is a very good self-portrait by him, from the same period as the one in the Moscow collection). All I can do is repeat the same answer: Derain, because he made paintings.




About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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