Kokoschka, A Degenerate Artist
Kokoschka, A Degenerate Artist

In 1937, as part of the propaganda of the Nazi regime, a touring exhibition entitled Degenerate Art was organized in Munich. Artists whose artworks strayed from the official style of the regime were deemed as “degenerate;” several paintings by Kokoschka were included in this show, such as Self-portrait from Two Sides (1923), which was compared to the work made by people in mental hospitals. Kokoschka, who was in Prague at the time, responded to the exhibition by painting Self-portrait as a “Degenerate Artist” (1937, shown in gallery 209). The hunter and deer in the background allude to flight and persecution.

“A new self-portrait […] suggestive and very good […] it could be called Self-portrait of a Pilloried Artist. But it looks as if I’ll have the last laugh at those fools’ expense.” Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka in front of his Self-portrait from two sides in Villeneuve c.1955
University of Applied Arts Vienna, Oskar Kokoschka-Zentrum
©René Burri/Magnum Photos