The Dreaming Boys

Book page: The Dreaming Boys
Book page from Oskar Kokoschkas Die träumenden Knaben (The Dreaming Boys), 1908
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

The Dreaming Boys

An expressionistic children’s book by Oskar Kokoschka, 1908

At the age of 20, I penned and illustrated this book. It took two years to print it. 50 years later, people in Germany still haven't seen what there is to see and love in this book! Let’s wait another 50 years.

Oskar Kokoschka talking about  The Dreaming Boys, 1960

The Austrian painter and graphic artist Oskar Kokoschka was given a commission by the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) in 1907 to design a children’s book. He wrote a text about first love, the period between childhood and adulthood and the longing for foreign countries – issues that already interested him at that time. Kokoschka illustrated his story with colour lithographs and also integrated writing into his design. The draft book entirely failed to meet the Wiener Werkstätte’s expectations for a children’s book. Nevertheless, they decided to publish the work with a print run of 500 copies. The book sold poorly, however. In 1917, the Kurt Wolff Verlag in Leipzig acquired and sold the remaining 275 copies. 

The Dreaming Boys contains a prologue and seven dreams, the vividly coloured lithographs that mark the transition from Art Nouveau to Expressionism. The book marked the beginning of Expressionism in Vienna. It is now considered one of the most important illustrated works of the 20th century.