Oskar Kokoschka. Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, Hope of Women). (1916, drawings executed 1910)

Oskar Kokoschka

Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, Hope of Women)

(1916, drawings executed 1910)

Not on view
the artist
Illustrated book with five line block reproductions after pen and ink drawings, four with gouache additions
page: 13 7/16 x 9 3/4" (34.1 x 24.8 cm); overall: 13 9/16 x 10 1/16 x 1/4" (34.5 x 25.5 x 0.7 cm)
Verlag Der Sturm, Berlin
Druckerei für Bibliophilen, Berlin
100 (including 3 numbered 1-3 with gouache additions [this ex.] and 97 numbered 4-100)
Transferred from the Museum Library
Object number
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich
Illustrated Book
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
There are 4 works in this illustrated book online.
Oskar Kokoschka has 144 works online.
There are 4,013 illustrated books online.

Kokoschka's notorious play Murderer, Hope of Women was first produced in 1909 in Vienna, where its single performance caused a scandal. Set in barbaric antiquity against a backdrop of two chanting male and female choruses, it dramatizes the eternal clash between the sexes in violent, bloody terms. This book, published seven years later, brings together his text and four related drawings. The illustrations emphasize the brutal interactions between the two main characters. Their naked bodies are covered with tattoos, which at the time signified primitivism, criminality, and degeneracy.

Gallery label from German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, March 27–July 11, 2011

Additional text

Set in a barbaric antiquity, and against the backdrop of two chanting male and female choruses, Oskar Kokoschka's notorious Expressionist play Mörderer, Hoffnung der Frauen (Murderer, hope of women) dramatizes the eternal clash between the sexes. These illustrations emphasize the violent interactions between the two central figures, whose nude bodies are covered in expressive, netlike patterns of tattoos—at the time, signifiers of primitivism, criminality, and degeneracy.

In one scene, the woman pushes the blade into the man's chest. The man, whose facial features and shaved head resemble those of Kokoschka himself, nevertheless rises up. In another, he towers over her on the cusp of triumph, with knife in hand, as the chorus looks on.


The play's single performance at the Kunstschau exhibition in summer 1909 cemented Kokoschka's reputation as Vienna's wildest young artist. Shortly thereafter, his friend and supporter Adolf Loos introduced him to important Berlin dealer and publisher Herwarth Walden. Walden began promoting Kokoschka's work in Germany and printed several of the artist's drawings in his influential Expressionist periodical, Der Sturm. In 1916, Walden's Verlag Der Sturm published this illustrated book, combining Kokoschka's play with reproductions of related drawings (including four that had appeared in the periodical). Kokoschka hand-colored the reproductions in three copies; of these three, two are now in the Museum's collection. Kokoschka dedicated the edition to Loos.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin; sold to Heinrich Stinnes (1867-1932), Cologne, November 20, 1916; Heinrich Stinnes Estate; sold through Gutekunst & Klipstein, Bern, June 22-24, 1938 (lot 387). Acquired by the The Museum of Modern Art, Library, New York; transferred to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1949.

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