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About this work

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

In this lithograph, blood drips from the mouth of a bust of Marianne, who personifies France and is identifiable by her conical Phrygian cap, an ancient symbol of liberty. The French Revolution's idealistic slogan, "Liberty, equality, and fraternity," is scrawled on the bust's base in blood red, distorted into "Liberty, equality, and fratricide." The print expresses Oskar Kokoschka's fear that with a series of bloody clashes that began in November 1918, post–World War I Germany was descending into civil war. The strife in fact would lead to the overthrow of Germany's imperial government and its eventual replacement with a republic. Although Kokoschka initially associated with artists of the revolutionary November Group, he did not join them and asked that they not list him as a supporter.

Kokoschka's depiction of a blood-smeared artwork proved prophetic: a year after this lithograph appeared, street fighting in Dresden caused damage to a painting in the city's Zwinger museum. Kokoschka made a public statement imploring his countrymen to take their political battles away from cultural sites, bringing upon himself the criticism that he cared more about art than about people.

Oskar Kokoschka (Austrian, 1886–1980)

The Principle (Das Prinzip) from the periodical in portfolio form Die Schaffenden, vol. 1, no. 3 (1919)

Date:
(1918, published 1919)
Medium:
Lithograph
Dimensions:
composition (irreg.): 13 5/8 x 9 3/4" (34.6 x 24.7 cm); sheet: 16 5/16 x 12 5/16" (41.4 x 31.3 cm)
Paper:
Cream, smooth, wove (japan).
Publisher:
Verlag Gustav Kiepenheuer, Potsdam-Berlin
Printer:
unknown
Edition:
125 (including deluxe edition of 25 on Japan paper and regular edition of 100 on wove paper [this ex.])
Credit Line:
Purchase
Copyright:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich
Reference:
Arntz 107. Wingler & Welz 132. Söhn 72703-5.
MoMA Number:
540.1949
Themes:
Death, Postwar Politics
Techniques:
Lithography

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