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Art and Images in Psychiatry
January 2007

The Tempest

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2007 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2007

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(1):11-12. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.64.1.11

How beautiful she was, and how seductive she looked beneath her mourning veil! She enchanted me! And I had the impression that she was not indifferent to me either.1(p73)—Kokoschka, conversations with Brassai, 1930-1931

After dinner, Alma Mahler (1879-1964) invited Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) to join her at the piano. She played Isolde's final song of transfiguration from her favorite opera, Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, when Isolde sings over the body of Tristan and joins him in death.2(pp147-151) Kokoschka listened to her play and watched her with rapt attention (epigraph). He had been invited to dinner by the artist Carl Moll, Alma Mahler's stepfather, who was hoping that Kokoschka might paint her portrait. That evening, April 12, 1912, was the beginning of their passionate affair. The opera's archetypal theme of illicit love and death accompanied them throughout the stormy relationship that followed.