Wednesday, February 4, 2009


This painting by Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) was made in 1929 and it is an oil on canvas representing the port of Istanbul (Turkey). It measures 31.6 x 43.6 in. / 80.3 x 110.8 cm and was acquired from the artist in 1930 by the Galerie Paul Cassirer, Berlin, then transferred to N. V. Amsterdamsche Kunsthandel Paul Cassirer & Co., Amsterdam in April 1931.

Oskar Federer , director general of the Vitkovice iron and mining company, from Ostrava (Czechoslovakia) acquired it from the above through Neue Galerie, Vienna, in 1933. In 1939, he managed to leave the Nazi-held Czechoslovakia when his wife and children already were safely in Canada. However, he could smuggle out only four of his favourite paintings, leaving behind a precious collection of works by European masters.

Istanbul I was Seized by the Nazis in 1939 as "entartete kunst" (degenerate art) and sold to the Galerie Vytvarného Umenì, Ostrava, in November 1943. Federer grandson, Andrew, a Toronto-based banker who works for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, failed to regain the paintings that remained in the Czech Republic in the 1990s because legislation at that time allowed only restitution of property confiscated after the 1948 Communist takeover. A new law, passed in 2000, allowed for art stolen by the Nazis to be claimed by the original owners or their heirs. It was restituted to the heirs of Oskar Federer in 2007.

Oskar Kokoschka (1 March 1886 – 22 February 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright, best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes and his passionate affair with Alma Schindler, widow of composer Gustav Mahler and ex-wife of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus.

Kokoschka became a British citizen in 1946 and only in 1978 would regain Austrian citizenship. He travelled briefly to the United States in 1947 before settling in Switzerland, where he lived the rest of his life.

Kokoschka had much in common with his contemporary Max Beckmann. Both maintained their independence from German Expressionism, yet they are now regarded as its supreme masters, who delved deeply into the art of past masters to develop unique individual styles.

Estimated by Sotheby's between 1,200,000—1,800,000 GBP, it sold with Buyer's Premium for 1,49 million GBP ($2,15 million) on 3rd of February 2009.

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