Oskar Kokoschka e Alma Mahler
Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler. The love story. The story of overwhelming love, of a masterpiece and of the creation of a doll.
It is 1912 and the young Alma is recently a widow of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. She went through a marriage crisis that not even Sigmund Freud seems to have been able to justify or understand.
It is 1912 and the young Oscar is at the first experiences in the Viennese Secession group. In fact, he is ready to detach from his teacher Gustav Klimt, to become one of the greatest exponents of what will be defined shortly after the Austrian Expressionism.
Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler. Alma’s past
For Alma, the story with her husband Gustav Mahler is not the first relationship. In fact, she has already been with several men certainly helped by its beauty, but also by its intelligence. The first great love of Alma, opposed by his mother, was Gustav Klimt, the man who was upsetting the history of art at the end of the nineteenth century in Vienna.
The two met in Vienna because Alma’s father was a well-known painter who was greatly appreciated by the Empire and died when she was very young.
But they had actually chased each other in Italy from one leg to the other of Alma’s Grand Tour, exchanging the first kiss in Genoa, discovered by her mother reading the girl’s diaries, and then swearing love in Venice in Piazza San Marco forever. But this is another story.
Oskar Kokoschka e Alma Mahler. The meeting
The story between Alma and Oscar starts by chance. Alma, a composer, is the most beautiful woman in Vienna, already the mother of two girls. Oscar recently returned from Berlin, is an impetuous, wild and attractive painter, ten years younger than her.
He captures her, seduces her, but frightens her at the same time. The two become lovers. For two years, from 1912 to 1914 they will live an intense story, made of ups and downs, quarrels and jealousies, especially from Kokoschka.
Alma’s love life had actually started long before, as a girl. She then married the composer Gustav Mahler, betraying him with the future founder of the Bauhaus: the young architect Walter Gropius.
Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler. Bride of the wind
Our story, the story of Alma Mahler and Oskar Kokoschka, is based entirely on time and attraction. It will last only two years and will lead the artist to the realization of some of his most powerful works.
The years ’12 and ’14 are dominated by the figure of Alma. Always present even when it is not directly portrayed.
Precious testimony, in addition to some studies and a portrait, is the most vibrant and well-known work of Kokoschka: Bride of the Wind (oil on canvas, 180 x 220 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basilea). The suggestive title seems to have been born at the suggestion of the poet George Traki. He, like many in Vienna, knew the story of the two and saw its features depicted in the scene.
The two lovers are relaxed, united after the act of love. She sleeps kidnapped on his shoulder, who remains vigilant and attentive. Representation is in itself a metaphor of their history. He is careful and jealous and he is afraid of losing her.
Just that year the story will end, because of the many quarrels and the rapprochement of Alma to the first lover Gropius (with whom he will marry in 1915). Kokoschka will enlist the military by selling the painting, which has become a symbol of a broken union.
Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler. The fans for Alma
This will not be Kokoschka’s only work closely linked to women. She will continue to be the protagonist of many works, including a series of fans unknown to most. Kokoschka: the fans of Alma Mahler.
A book that tells a love story through a series of works that have characterized it. Six fans in three years, 1912 – 1914. Birthday or Christmas gifts from the artist to his beloved Alma, told by Heinz Spielmann in an exceptional way.
For decades, these works have been forgotten, unknown even to enthusiasts, despite not only being a testimony of an overwhelming encounter and love but also a kind in vogue since the eighteenth century and heavily exploited by artists such as Manet, Degas, Gaugin or Toulouse – Lautrec.
Spiellman describes, thanks to his complete knowledge of Kokoschka’s life and work, each fan deconstructing it and telling a story for each section. Six chapters dedicated to decorative art objects. “Letters of love in figurative language”, as the artist used to call them, accompanied by images and old photos, guiding us by the hand in the intimate life of a couple that, in some years, unfortunately, will become a strong flame. Love will burn and then extinguish with enchantment.
It is difficult to imagine a better gift of an artist for a woman. These six fans, preserved in a wonderful way, tell the story of the two in a charming and unique way. Like some Kokoschka paintings, they are rich in deep symbols, but they are also very realistic in describing familiar people and places.
Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler. The end of the story and a doll
The years of war with the bloody episodes that Kokoschka, enlisted volunteer, participates in are not enough to close the wound opened with the abandonment of Alma.
Escaped the war, in 1918 the painter suffering from serious injuries on his head, ordered a modista from Stuttgart, Hermine Moos, a life-sized doll that had to reproduce the features of Alma: Blue Dame.
The letters addressed to the modelista in the course of work, published in 1925, are one of the most intriguing documents of the artistic historiography of the century. A puppet, a doll with the features of the lover fled, a faithful companion for the rest of his life.
Oskar Kokoschka and Alma Mahler. The love story. This was the story of Alma Mahler and Oskar Kokoschka.
A 2001 film, directed by Bruce Beresford, tells the story of love between the two, the intrigues and relationships of Alma with her first husband and lover: Bride of the wind.
Cover: on the left Oskar Kokoschka in 1963 by Erling Mandelmann (free to use ©ErlingMandelmann.ch); on the right Alma Mahler in 1899 (public domain)