After Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) had already caused a stir with the presentation of his poster design The Cotton Picker
for the 1908 Kunstschau
, his play Murderer, the Hope of Women
sealed his reputation as “chief wildling”. Premiering on 4th July 1909 at the garden theater of the Internationale Kunstschau
, the play caused a veritable scandal, seeing as Kokoschka flouted bourgeois conventions and staged the relationship between man and woman as a power struggle shaped by violence and sexual desire. Wishing to promote his play, the artist designed a poster: Drawing on Christian iconography, he used the popular motif of the Pietà. Rather than depicting the Mother of Christ as a mourning woman, however, Kokoschka rendered her as a deadly femme fatale
, holding the blood-smeared body of Christ in her arms. The deliberately coarse writing emphasizes the rendering’s wild and brutal character. Today, both the poster and the play are considered a first climax of Kokoschka’s Expressionist oeuvre.