His Most Famous Painting (Bride of the Wind) – Oskar Kokoschka

‘Expressionist’ Austrian painter, poet, and playwright of Czech origin, Oskar Kokoschka was known for his highly dramatized portrayals. One of his most incredible and extraordinary creation is “The Tempest (Bride of the Wind), an oil on canvas painting, measuring 5’11” x 7’3″, created in 1914. Oskar Kokoschka made “The Tempest” using the muted color tones of pastel green and pink, with a prominent use of dark blue and grey, composing the background too. Kokoschka’s use of dull color scheme adds to the mystical aspect of the illustration. He painted “The Tempest” in the mourning of his failed intense and passionate love affair with his muse Alma Mahler (a Viennese socialite who was a widow of composer Gustav Mahler). The bizarre painting was a tribute to her.

“The Tempest (Bride of the Wind)” depicts Alma and Oskar himself lying naked until the waist, entwined on a shell like vessel, floating on turbulent waves. It seems as if they have been in a shipwreck and are in the middle of the ocean. Their individual expressions and body language are immensely contrastive and speak volumes of their characters. Alma is lying sideways blissfully asleep. Her pretty face appears serene, oblivious to the dangers surrounding them. On the other hand, lying next to her is Oskar, devoid of sleep. He seems to be staring into thin air, as if consumed with worry. He looks weak and his body appears bruised at some places. The wildness of the waves is accentuated with the vigorous brushwork of thick impasto color. The swirly background ‘Symbolizes’ the stormy and passionate relationship that they shared. Kokoschka creates a silhouette of shapes, skillfully layering the colors and blends. In some places, the waves seem to form the traces of ghostly figures, which probably imply the traumas haunting Oskar. “The Tempest” is an exemplary of Oskar’s intensely ‘Expressionist’ style of work.

Austrian poet George Traki had a chance to see the painting before it was finished. Fascinated with the illustration he created a poem immediately, called ‘The Night.’ Some of its words were ‘Over the blackish cliffs, Plunges death drunken, the incandescent Bride of the wind.’ Inspired by the verse Oskar named his painting “The Tempest (Bride of the Wind).” In “The Tempest,” he presents a visual treat through his exceptional talent and masterful vision. This amazing and unusual piece of art has been an inspiration for many novels and movies. The painting currently rests at the Kunstmuseum in Basel.

Mildred K. Pearson

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