Paula Modersohn-Becker, forgotten precursor of modern art

Paula Modersohn-Becker has been painted and that’s it. She was friends with Rilke. She did not really like being married. She aims at rice pudding, applesauce, walking in the moor, Gauguin, Cézanne, sea bathing, being in the sun, reading rather than making a living, and Paris. She may be a child. It existed in real, from 1876 to 1907.

This is how the writer Marie Darrieusecq described the German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker, in his biography Being here is a splendor. Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker.

The Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris presents the first monograph in France of this artist who although unknown to the French public, is very popular in Germany and is today considered a major figure of modern art.

Marie Darrieusecq tried to repair this injustice:

“The more I discovered her work, the more I’m told it was unbearable that she could not be here. The more I loved her, the more I wanted to show her, simply. “

Resolutely modern and ahead of its time, the painting shows a daring personal aesthetic. If the topics are typical of his time (self-portraits, mother and child, landscapes, still lifes …), his way of dealing with the innovative. His paintings are distinguished by a power of expression in color, a great sensitivity and a great ability to grasp the essence of his models. Despite her short artistic career reduced to about ten years, the artist transmits a rich work that the exhibition traces through 130 paintings and drawings in a chronological and thematic way. A unique and sensitive journey.

After training in Berlin, in 1898 she joined the artistic community of Worpswede, in northern Germany, where she met her future husband, Otto Modersohn, who was also a painter.

Paula Modersohn-Becker, a woman who appears in many self-portraits, feeling intimately, without any complacency. This self-portrait, where she portrays herself pregnant, is charged with a certain tragic irony, since she will die at the age of 31 after giving birth to her first child. It is a total fiction with the artist then not pregnant … This woman was the price in the tensions between creativity and life that on the demand of women at that time. She fled several times to Paris. Fascinated by the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, she made four long stays that represented a true aesthetic liberation. She sees Cézanne, Matisse, Gauguin, Douanier Rousseau … These influences are essential in her work.

A very short work, but very intense. She has no artistic recognition in her lifetime – she will only sell three paintings in her lifetime – her husband very early, does not understand at all what she does. There is no class in Paris, in Montparnasse, the only place at the time when women can learn anatomy. She finds a freedom she did not know in Germany.

This painting shows a breastfeeding, a sleep after breastfeeding in a very simple and comfortable position for necessarily taught in the maternity, it is an unpublished representation for its year of creation: 1906.

Several paintings considered too avant-garde are presented in the degenerate art exhibition organized by the Nazis in Munich in 1937. His representation of the female body was not in conformity with the codes. It is perhaps the first woman to have painted naked, car models, all simply, it gives a representation of the female body very direct, denuded also of the male gaze on the female body. When Paula visits the Louvre, there are only four women exhibitors including Vigée Lebrun, and hundreds of women exposed. It represents, neither sacred nor madonna nor odalisque. She will expose only twice, and it is a failure … The critics on the nausea before his paintings! She paints alone, she experiments with great freedom.

“It is the sweet vibration of things that I must learn to express, the crepit in itself, in general, with the most intimate observation, aiming for the greatest simplicity. Paula Modersohn-Becker

It was only after his death in 1907 that it was discovered that she left a considerable body of work. In total, more than a thousand paintings and drawings – there are still about 730 paintings, some of which disappeared during the war.

Note that in Germany, Paula Modersohn-Becker is the first woman to have had her museum. He opened in 1927 in Bremen thanks to a patron, Ludwig Roselius.