Friday Art: Sleeping Woman by Oscar Kokoschka (1917)

Most of Kokoschka’s works are considered German Expressionism, an art form I always associate with black and white/ light and shadow, since I’m such a film nerd. Kokoschka’s works are often in brilliant bright colors, although his themes (especially his antiwar paintings) are right in line with the themes usually found in expressionist art. But sometimes he’d paint in other styles, like with some amazingly bright and fiery colored landscapes and city views, and this guy traveled all over after fleeing his native Austria after the Nazis moved in and declared him decadent.

He’d also paint some primitivist works, some of my favorites of his, like this one. They remind me of Matisse in some ways, Picasso in others (this one for its subject matter), and they’re just pleasing on the eye. I like how I’m not sure if she’s sleeping in some public city park, on an island in the middle of the fish pond, with the wall off to one side and some woods beyond the buildings…. or if we’re seeing the wild variations of her flowing dreamscape all around her as she sleeps. Maybe it’s both.

I like how the colors are all blocks and shapes of some sort set against that black background. Whether it’s her dress or the bricks in the wall or the trees, even the lines of flowing water – they’re all separate blocks of some sort. It reminds me of an elementary school art class exercise we did with crayons – we drew some colorful scene on paper, and then completely covered it with black crayon. And then, we used toothpicks or some safe-for-twerps sharp object to scrape away parts of the black crayon to reveal the colors underneath, setting them off against that darkness. Kokoschka gets the same effect here.

I plan to sleep a lot this holiday weekend. Not sure if I’ll dream of scary red fish swimming around me and deer in the distance, tho. I’ll keep you posted.

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