KOKOSCHKA-03_Trude-Fleischmann-OK-und-Olda-Palkovska-in-London-1939_1-512x411 Oskar Kokoschka in London in 1939

Oskar Kokoschka was one of Europe's most important creative minds. Born in Austria at the end of the 19th century in Austria, Kokoschka studied art and literature at a time when the influences of the Vienna Secessionists was having a huge cultural impact.

In 1910, the artist travelled to Switzerland with his patron, the architect Adolf Loos, and then to Berlin where he had his first solo show. By 1912, the artist had now become associated with the Expressionist movement.

Post World War I, after serving in the army, Kokoschka went in a new direction, turning to landscape as he travelled through Europe. In 1934, with his world labelled 'degenerate' by the Nazis, Kokoschka fled from Vienna before moving to Prague and then landing on Britain's shores, living in Scotland.

In 1947, Kokoschka took British citizenship, but in 1953 he settled permanently in Switzerland, with which he had long had close ties. He died in his house near Geneva in 1980. He was created CBE and held an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Oxford.


In 1958, Kokoschka captured his friend, famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin was a neighbour of Kokoschka's in Gstaad. The pair would attend musical festivals together. This particular drawing, up for auction at Lyon & Turnbull,  was one of two lots by Kokoschka sold at an evening auction at the Royal Academy in London on 5th May 1970, in aid of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music for Children at Cobham, Surrey. The auctioneer was Peter Wilson, Chairman of Sotheby's and the drawing made £1 500.

The drawing, lot 9, was catalogued, as were many of the lots, as having been "donated by the artist." Works by Epstein, Beaton, Frink, Moore, Piper and Chagall were all featured in the 1970 auction, with the Kokoschka drawing of Menuhin featured on the cover. The purchaser at the time was the late Sigmund Root, a Czech émigré and a significant donor to the Yehudi Menuhin School.

The musician's eyes have been captured by Kokoschka with a sparkling intensity at a moment of profound concentration. The piece is much more than a portrait, it is a deeply felt tribute from one towering figure of modern culture to another.

Lyon & Turnbull's British & European Paintings sale will take place on 24th May, 2017. Check out the full catalogue here.