PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE GERMAN COLLECTION
As in his earliest Expressionist works, in Hamburg, Hafen II Kokoschka makes full use of the descriptive power of colour. Using his favoured blue as a background he alleviates this with vivid accents of red, orange, turquoise and green, applying the paint in both vertical and horizontal strokes. This creates a kaleidoscopic effect that perfectly captures the play of light on the water and the movement of the many large and small craft that fill the foreground of the composition.
The busy life of post-industrial waterways appears to have been of particular interest to the artist; along with his views of Hamburg harbour, he painted the Thames in London, the Elbe in Dresden and the Vltava in Prague. A frequent traveller himself, this environment would have been familiar to him, but it also offered one of the most interesting faces of the city revealing a point of intersection between past and present. In this respect his cityscapes can be seen as a portrait of the Europe that emerged following the First and Second World Wars. As Werner Hofmann explains: ‘in his portraits of cities, Kokoschka transforms the given topographies into living beings, mixing the charm of age with a permanent rejuvenation’ (Werner Hofmann, in Oskar Kokoschka (exhibition catalogue), Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, 1983, p. 23, translated from French). This is true of the present work which combines the ancient architecture of the old city with the panoply of life and movement in the bustling waters of the harbour.
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