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Kokoschka painting donated to North Sea Flood lottery on show for the first time
13 September 2013
From Saturday 21 September, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen will have a scoop.
The major autumn exhibition ‘Oskar Kokoschka - Portraits of People and Animals’ will include, alongside around one hundred and fifty paintings and drawings from international collections, a painting by Kokoschka that has never before been exhibited to the public. The work ‘Private Property’ (1939) belongs to a Dutch individual who won the painting in 1953 as a prize in a lottery to collect money for the victims of the North Sea Flood.
In 1953, the National Disaster Fund Foundation organised a lottery for the benefit of the victims of the North Sea Flood. The socially engaged Kokoschka donated the painting ‘Private Property’; it shows a woman with the head of a cat, inspired by a postcard the painter received from a friend. The artwork has been in the possession of the winner since then and hangs in the bedroom. The painting is in mint condition, including the lottery sticker on the rear. The existence of the work so far has been known only to a handful Kokoschka experts in the world.
Artists other than Kokoschka also donated works to the lottery, including Jan Sluijters who gave s flower still life from 1911. Before the lottery itself took place, the art works were exhibited in a travelling exhibition entitled ‘Artists help’. The final show was held in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and was opened by Prince Bernhard (chairman of the National Disaster Fund).
Kokoschka painted ‘Private Property’ in 1939 in England, where he had fled from Prague a year earlier with his girl friend Olda to escape the Nazis. The painting is the first in a series of political allegories. The painting shows a woman with the head of a cat in front of the bay of the English resort Polperro. At her feet lie several fish, and these are watched carefully by a group of rats on the left of the painting. Kokoschka described the painting as follows:
“(...) a cat, guarding the fish, in the background a retired lady with umbrella and handbag, who is taking her daily walk along the beach to help her digestion. I was amazed at how phlegmatic the English were, that they didn’t perceive the threat of war, while on the continent people, in panic for the Führer, were allowing themselves to be driven into the abyss like sheep.” The title of the painting, ‘Private Property’, refers on the one hand to the importance of private property and the allied greed, and on the other to the path England chose at that historic moment, by signing a treaty with Hitler in 1938 which gave him a part of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland) in exchange for peace.
The exhibition ‘Oskar Kokoschka - People and creatures’ uses eight themes to sketch a personal perspective of the master painter in the period around the First and Second World Wars. From Kokoschka’s earliest portraits of the Viennese elite, animals and children via the political works, to his very last self-portrait dating from 1971/1972.
The exhibition is made possible by the generous support from the Special Benefactors, the BankGiro Loterij, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, SNS REAAL Fonds, Ploum Lodder Princen, Zabawas, AON Artscope, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for the indemnity grant, K.F. Hein Foundation and Farrow & Ball.
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