Oskar Kokoschka’s Self-Portrait as Warrior was created in 1937 to express the artist’s break with Jugendstil and decorative art. Within a year of producing this artwork, Kokoschka had completed The Dreaming Boys, which charts his transformation from a sweet artistic costume-beauty to a critical observer and humanist. As an expressionist, this painting demonstrates how Kokoschka crossed his arms defiantly in response to his inclusion in the Degenerate ‘Art’ exhibition organised by the Nazis.
Kokoschka first studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Vienna from 1905 to 1909. Having published over 560 art prints throughout his career, Self-Portrait as Warrior is nearly one-third of all of the artist’s work. Sadly, 117 works by Kokoschka were confiscated by the Nazis – due to their belief that he was a “degenerate” – displaying his work at the Degenerate ‘Art’ exhibition to pour scorn on modern art.
Throughout other genres of artwork and painting, Franz Kline would similarly reject traditional form with abstract works like New York N.Y., painted in 1953. The American painter depicted an energy and power to create an angular paintings full of color and emotion although it was quite different from that of Kokoschka’s subversive self-portraits. This revolutionary approach set a foundation for what would become the acclaimed modernist movement of abstract expressionism, establishing New York City as its centerstage in 1953.