Oskar Kokoschka, fiery musician

He frequented them, wrote to them, collaborated with them (1) and, of course, painted them. The Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka, currently exhibited at the Musée d’Art moderne de la ville de Paris, is closely linked to musical life, in particular to Viennese composers and performers. He even confessed to maintaining more complicity with them than with his fellow painters…

The stimulating Parisian retrospective therefore encourages us to follow, among so many avenues opened up by this creator with a long and fruitful career, the one that linked him to the world of sound. And even more to the representation of the musician at work, delivered body and soul to his exalting and exhausting task, exciting and, sometimes, discouraging.

In this regard, we cannot recommend too much listening to the podcast produced by the pianist Romain Louveau around the engravings inspired in Kokoschka by the Cantata BWV 60 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The painter also sublimates there, in the crossing and fusion of pictorial lines, his passionate and painful relationship with Alma Mahler, the muse of muses in Vienna in the first half of the 20th century.

Vibrant silence of painting and music

Throughout the course of the exhibition, the visitor encounters a number of musical figures thrown on the canvas in thick and blurred lines, with these dense, even garish colors, and this powerful energy that is specific to them.

Here, executed in 1954, is the portrait of the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals: face glued to the neck of his instrument, robust hands far from faithful to the evanescent image of the aristocratic fingers of the musician. As for her blue garment, it is as much a peasant blouse as a concert performer’s costume; the crimson touch of the tie responds to the copper color chart of the cello as well as to the sanguine complexion of Casals.

The strength of the canvas is accentuated by the vast empty space occupying the upper half of the composition. This way, the music giant will have the space he needs to get up and leave the room when the rehearsal is over. And leave us face to face with the vibrant silence of painting and music.

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