Skip to main content

Paula Modersohn-Becker

5.12.2014 - 6.4.2015

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is organizing the first major exhibition in Scandinavia of the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907). The exhibition comprises about 100 paintings and 40 drawings.

The exhibition presents the highly distinctive production of Paula Modersohn-Becker, an artist with the status of one of the radical innovators of German modernism. She is known as one of the first to introduce the modern French impulses into German painting – that is, inspirations from painters like Cézanne and Gauguin, whom she studied in Paris. But she is also known for her new view of the female figure in particular, and for an oeuvre that creates a special combination of the non-idyllizing and the archaic. This applies to both landscape and figure paintings, and not least to her representations of women and children, of the mother figure and herself.

Paula Modersohn-Becker put down roots in the artists’ colony in Worpswede outside Bremen, but spent several periods in Paris. Several of her works were included in the Nazis’ exhibition of Entartete Kunst in 1937. She is also known for her close Friendship with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whose Requiem für eine Freundin was written for her. Paula Modersohn-Becker died just 31 years old after having borne her first child, and her artistic career is thus a brief but intense and quite unique achievement. 

C. L. Davids Fond og Samling support this exhibition.

About Paula Modersohn-Becker

Modersohn-Becker is at once very old-fashioned and ultra-modern. She stages herself in one self-portrait after another in a variety of self-presentations, but her gaze at the self and the surrounding world is neither flickering nor inconstant; rather, it is archaic, as if it comes from another time and another place. Her gaze exposes central elements of a female universe where for example breast-feeding, children, breasts, fatigue and the role of the mother are also parts of her observation. Paula Modersohn-Becker is considered the first woman in the history of art to paint full-length nude self-portraits.

In her lifestyle as a woman of that age Paula Modersohn-Becker also stood out. She was born in Dresden, grew up as one of six children in a culturally open-minded family that supported her artistic ambition. At the time women had no access to the art academies, so Modersohn-Becker travelled to an art school for women in Berlin, where she developed her talent further and drew inspiration from the city’s galleries and art museums. In 1898 she went to live at the artist colony in the northern German village Worpswede. The colony’s artists enjoyed success on the German contemporary art scene, and the colony attracted a variety of artists from the outside world, including the young poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who became a close friend of Modersohn-Becker. In 1901 she married one of the leading figures of the artist colony, Otto Modersohn. At Worpswede she painted landscapes but mainly she produced pictures of children and adults and the residents of the village in her own increasingly simplified visual idiom.

Modersohn-Becker left Worpswede several times to gain inspiration and develop her artistic skills in Paris, the melting-pot for modern art at the time. At the beginning of 1907 she returned to her husband and to Worpswede. In the fall she died suddenly 18 days after giving birth to her daughter Mathilde.Modersohn-Becker is at once very old-fashioned and ultra-modern. She stages herself in one self-portrait after another in a variety of self-presentations, but her gaze at the self and the surrounding world is neither flickering nor inconstant; rather, it is archaic, as if it comes from another time and another place. Her gaze exposes central elements of a female universe where for example breast-feeding, children, breasts, fatigue and the role of the mother are also parts of her observation. Paula Modersohn-Becker is considered the first woman in the history of art to paint full-length nude self-portraits.

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
Selbstbildnis nach links, die Hand am Kinn, 1906
Private Collection. Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover.

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
Selbstbildnis am 6. Hochzeitstag, 1906
Museen Böttcherstrasse, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen 

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
Liegende Mutter mit Kind II, 1906
Museen Böttcherstrasse, Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen 

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
Stilleben mit Goldfischglas, 1906
Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal 

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
Kopf eines blonden Mädchens vor Landschaft,1901
Private Collection.

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
Selbstbildnis, Halbfigur nach links, eine Schale und ein Glas haltend, 1904
The Sander Collection