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 Paula (Modersohn) Becker  (1876 - 1907)

/ moh-der-sun bek-er/
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Lived/Active: Germany      Known for: post-impressionist, modernist figure painting

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
„Auf einem Stuhl sitzendes Mädchen mit Kind auf dem Schoß vor Landschaft“
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Paula Modersohn-Becker was born in 1876. She was able to synthesize some of the most powerful elements of 19th century realism and 20th century expressionism into an extremely personal style. For the most part, her parents were very supportive of her. In 1896 they managed to send her to the Drawing and Painting School of the Society of Berlin Women Artists and to pay for additional lessons by taking in a boarder. She spent the summer of 1897 in the countryside near their Bremen home at Worpswede, a rural colony of artists with back-to-nature goals and ideals similar to those of the French Barbizon group.

It was at Worpswede that she met Otto Modersohn, a well-known painter eleven years her senior, who was later to become her husband. Their marriage proved to be rocky. She maintained a separate studio, continuing to paint and giving her painting priority over housework. When she was thirty, she left for Paris with the intention of never returning to her husband, although, ironically, she was still dependent on him for financial support.

In Paris her palette grew lighter and brighter and her output was enormous. Eventually, after a number of attempts at reconciliation, she returned with him to Worpswede, gave birth to their second daughter, following which she died suddenly. She had been kept in bed for three weeks following the birth, as was the medical custom then and the sudden movement caused a blood clot in her leg to dislodge and she died in 1907 of a cardiac embolism.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Ruth Bass in ARTnews, May 1984 in article entitled Self-Portrait With Bitter Lemon;

Biography from Galerie St. Etienne:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Paula Modersohn-Becker, the first German artist to absorb the lessons of French modernism, was one of the most advanced artists of her day.  However, it has taken a long time for her to acquire an international reputation.  During her brief career, Modersohn-Becker seldom exhibited and sold only a handful of her paintings (mainly to friends).  After her death at the age of 31, she initially became known, not for her art, but for her poignant journals and letters, which were reprinted numerous times following their publication in 1917.

Today, Modersohn-Becker is widely acknowledged throughout Germany, where several museums in her native Bremen and in Hanover house substantial collections of her work.  American audiences were introduced to Modersohn-Becker's paintings in 1958, when the Galerie St. Etienne held the artist's first exhibition here.  A second, larger exhibition, featuring major loans from German museums and private collections, was mounted by our gallery in 1983-84.

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