Lot 327
  • 327

Oskar Kokoschka

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Oskar Kokoschka
  • Hamburg, Hafen II (Hamburg, harbour II)
  • signed with the initials OK (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 90.2 by 120.3cm., 35 1/2 by 47 3/8 in.


Wilhelm Reinold, Hamburg
Private Collection, Germany (by descent from the above)
Private Collection, Germany (a gift from the above)
Sale: Christie's, London, 2nd February 2010, lot 47
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


London, Tate Gallery, Kokoschka, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, Lithographs, Stage Design and Books, 1962, no. 156, illustrated in the catalogue
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Oskar Kokoschka, 1962-63, no. 74, illustrated in the catalogue
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Views of Hamburg, 1967
Kassel, Alte Galerie, Museum Fridericianum, Orangerie, Documenta III, Internationale Ausstellung, 1964, no. 1
New York, M. Knoedler & Co. & Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Views of Hamburg, verantaltet von der Hamburger Kunsthalle, 1967, no. 13, illustrated in the catalogue
Vienna, Österreichische Galerie im oberen Belvedere, Oskar Kokoschka zum 85. Geburtstag, 1971, no. 88
Hamburg, B.A.T. Haus; Hamburg, Kunsthaus & Madrid, Fundacion Juan March, Oskar Kokoschka. Gemälde und Aquarelle seit 1953. Zeichnungen, Druckgrafik, Mosaiken seit 1971, 1975, no. 16, illustrated in the catalogue


Edgar Horstmann, Oskar Kokoschka in Hamburg, Hamburg, 1965, illustrated p. 25

Catalogue Note

Suffused with colour and energy, Hamburg, Hafen II (Hamburg Harbour II) is one of Oskar Kokoschka’s celebrated depictions of Europe’s great cities and a remarkable evocation of the busy harbour of Hamburg. Kokoschka had first visited the city in the 1920s, and was to return repeatedly throughout his life. In 1951 he turned to the city’s bustling harbour as a subject, painting Hamburg Hafen which is now in The Museum of Modern Art in New York. A decade later he returned to the city once again and – following a commission from the financier and collector Wilhelm Reinold – painted the present work, showing a view of the harbour from the Stülcken Wharf. On this occasion he made use of a crane to capture the wonderfully vertiginous viewpoint that he favoured for his cityscapes, showing a vast swathe of harbour with the spires and rooves of the city in the distance. Both works are painted on an impressive scale, heightening the immersive powers of Kokoschka’s composition. This is particularly apparent in the present work, where the lack of any single focal point and the positioning of the viewer in direct relation to the subject emphasises the simultaneity of the activity.  

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.