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The Eye of God: A Life of Oskar Kokoschka Hardcover – 17 May 1999


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There have been few apparently doomed wild youths of talent more wild than Oscar Kokoschka, and few wise old men of art more obviously wise; any biography of him has to find a way of showing how he got from the one to the other, and mere chronology will not serve. Susanne Keegan's competent study makes a decent fist of showing the process, by emphasising the extent to which he never entirely lost control of his life. Even at his strangest, as when he dealt with being dumped by Alma Mahler by commissioning an expensive, anatomically correct, life-size doll in her image, it was, in the end, a madness that he was trying on for size, a way of getting it, and her, out of his system. An expressionist whose desire to find ways of making people see precisely what he meant to show them extended to extensive experiments with avant-garde theatre, Kokoschka was one of the prime targets of the Nazi cultural police. Keegan conveys that hatred and the shock value that caused it; she makes one want to look at the paintings and drawings all over again. If there is ever a Kokoschka revival, this biography will be part of the reason.-- Roz Kavaney

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