In December of 2018, I was able to return to Germany and explore more about Paula Modersohn-Becker. In the kunsthalle (art museum) in Bremen, I found this fabulous painting by Becker. At the time, I was unable to read the title on the placard below it, for I do not speak German.
Recently I asked a German speaker to translate it for me and was surprised to find this as the translation:
A Farmer’s Child from Worpswede Sitting on a Chair, 1905. Confiscated as “degenerate” art by the Nazi Regime. Banished to a forbidden art depot 1937-1945. Recovered in 1945.
This piece of “degenerate” art was hidden away because it was too valuable to be destroyed. But to the Nazi’s, let’s just say, it was super #Nasty. If you would like to read more about degenerate art in the Nazi era click this link for a great article.
In researching this briefly I found new and interesting information about Modersohn-Becker’s work. This painting currently hanging in the Vatican has this description with it:
Paula Modersohn-Becker, Verkündigung
An artist considered “degenerate” by the Nazi regime, Paula Modersohn-Becker was educated in London and Germany, but her encounters with the work of Cézanne, Gauguin and van Gogh during a stay in Paris in 1900 caused a clear deviation in her painting and accentuated her interest in primitive cultures. Her imaginative repertoire was particularly influenced by African art and, in particular, the iconography of the Goddess of fertility, which seeps into many of her portraits of women. This Annunciation is an example of this tendency; the painter offers an intimate version of the moment in which the angel encounters the Virgin, made disconcerting by the total absence of features. The artist died shortly after childbirth at just 31 years of age.http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/collezione-d_arte-contemporanea/sale-15-e-16–il-primo-novecento-in-germania/paula-modersohn-becker–verkuendigung.html
I had not found information previously that mentioned Paula’s African influence and paintings of the Goddess. In searching around, I found a new book written about her, published in 2017 by Marie Darrieussecq, titled Being Here is Everything: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker, which I ordered. Stay tuned for a write up about that in a forthcoming Feminist Booklist entry.
On that same trip, I was able to return to Worpswede and find Paula’s grave. It was cold and raining but my travel companions and I persevered, making our way though a large cemetery until we found it. Chestnuts have a special meaning to me and I was delighted to see that someone had left some on her gravestone. I made some offerings onto the grave as well and paid my respects. I was glad to have found her grave, I guess to have some interaction with the physical body of the woman though long dead. It’s hard to explain why some people reach though time to us. I can still feel her spirit, strong and urging through the paintings, but the grave, to stand at the grave is to acknowledge her and my mortality and that what we do in our brief time here leaves an imprint, and that matters. That remains.
©Theresa C. Dintino 2019