Oskar Kokoschka’s ‘Doris and Cat’

Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980), was one of the greatest figurative painters of the twentieth century.

During the Second World War Oskar Kokoschka and his wife Olda were emigrants in Britain. From 1941 to 1945 the couple spent several weeks each summer in the Machars of Galloway as guests of the wealthy industrialist Emil Korner. Kokoschka had been friendly with the Korner family since his young days in Vienna and his stays at the House of Elrig, a few miles from Whithorn, were times of untroubled artistic productivity.

In August and September 1945, he painted a series of watercolours showing Doris with a cat on her lap. Doris was a young relative of the host who spent her summer holidays at Elrig. “She was always pleased when she could get out of the housework by modelling with the cat for Kokoschka. Her task was to hold onto the cat who was always trying to bolt”, Olda Kokoschka recalled in 1991.

The great fascination which the subject ‘girl with cat’ held for Kokoschka is shown in the way that he use these sketches for his last oil painting of 1973–76.

First published November 2009

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