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Past Exhibitions

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 11, 2017 - October 13, 2017


The Woman Question

Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka

March 14, 2017 - June 30, 2017


You Say You Want a Revolution

American Artists and the Communist Party

October 18, 2016 - March 4, 2017


Recent Acquisitions

July 12, 2016 - October 7, 2016


Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Featuring Watercolors and Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection

March 29, 2016 - July 1, 2016


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Art and Life

November 3, 2015 - March 19, 2016


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 21, 2015 - October 16, 2015


Leonard Baskin

Wunderkammer

April 23, 2015 - July 2, 2015


Alternate Histories

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

The Mother Paintings

October 7, 2014 - December 24, 2014


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014


Ilija/Mangelos

Father & Son, Inside & Out

April 24, 2014 - July 3, 2014


Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014


Käthe Kollwitz

The Complete Print Cycles

October 8, 2013 - December 28, 2013


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013


Face Time

Self and Identity in Expressionist Portraiture

April 9, 2013 - June 28, 2013


Story Lines

Tracing the Narrative of "Outsider" Art

January 15, 2013 - March 30, 2013


Egon Schiele's Women

October 23, 2012 - December 28, 2012


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012


Mad As Hell!

New Work (and Some Classics) by Sue Coe

April 17, 2012 - July 3, 2012


The Ins and Outs of Self-Taught Art

Reflections on a Shifting Field

January 10, 2012 - April 7, 2012


The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011


Decadence & Decay

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011


Self-Taught Painters in American 1800-1950

Revisiting the Tradition

January 11, 2011 - April 2, 2011


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

Paradise Lost & Found

October 12, 2010 - December 30, 2010


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010


Käthe Kollwitz

A Portrait of the Artist

April 13, 2010 - June 25, 2010


Seventy Years Grandma Moses

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Artist's "Discovery"

February 3, 2010 - April 3, 2010


Egon Schiele as Printmaker

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 3, 2009 - January 23, 2010


From Brücke To Bauhaus

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933

March 31, 2009 - June 26, 2009


They Taught Themselves

American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars

January 9, 2009 - March 14, 2009


Elephants We Must Never Forget

New Paintings Drawings and Prints by Sue Coe

October 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008


Hope or Menace?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars

March 25, 2008 - June 13, 2008


Transforming Reality

Pattern and Design in Modern and Self-Taught Art

January 15, 2008 - March 8, 2008


Leonard Baskin

Proofs and Process

October 9, 2007 - January 5, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 2007


Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007


More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006


Parallel Visions II

"Outsider" and "Insider" Art Today

April 5, 2006 - May 26, 2006


Ilija!

His First American Exhibtion

January 17, 2006 - March 18, 2006


Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 2006


Sue Coe:

Sheep of Fools

September 20, 2005 - November 5, 2005


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005


Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part II

Self-Taught Artists

January 18, 2005 - March 26, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005


Sue Coe: Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round and Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 8, 2004 - October 16, 2004


Animals & Us

The Animal in Contemporary Art

April 1, 2004 - May 22, 2004


Henry Darger

Art and Myth

January 15, 2004 - March 20, 2004


Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2003 - September 12, 2003


In Search of the "Total Artwork"

Viennese Art and Design 1897–1932

April 8, 2003 - June 14, 2003


Russia's Self-Taught Artists

A New Perspective on the "Outsider"

January 14, 2003 - March 29, 2003


Käthe Kollwitz:

Master Printmaker

October 1, 2002 - January 4, 2003


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


Workers of the World

Modern Images of Labor

April 2, 2002 - June 15, 2002


Grandma Moses

Reflections of America

January 15, 2002 - March 16, 2002


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoscha

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

November 23, 2001 - January 5, 2002


The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001


"Our Beautiful and Tormented Austria!": Art Brut in the Land of Freud

January 18, 2001 - March 17, 2001


The Tragedy of War

November 16, 2000 - January 6, 2001


The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000


From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000


European Self-Taught Art

Brut or Naive?

January 18, 2000 - March 11, 2000


Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000


The Modern Child

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999


Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999


Sue Coe: The Pit

The Tragical Tale of the Rise and Fall of a Vivisector

March 30, 1999 - June 5, 1999


Henry Darger and His Realms

January 14, 1999 - March 13, 1999


Becoming Käthe Kollwitz

An Artist and Her Influences

November 17, 1998 - December 31, 1998


George Grosz - Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany

September 23, 1998 - November 11, 1998


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Taboo

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998


Sacred & Profane

Michel Nedjar and Expressionist Primitivism

January 13, 1998 - March 14, 1998


Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Master Draughtsman

November 18, 1997 - January 3, 1998


The New Objectivity

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany

September 16, 1997 - November 8, 1997


Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997


Käthe Kollwitz - Lea Grundig

Two German Women & The Art of Protest

March 25, 1997 - May 31, 1997


That Way Madness Lies

Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997


The Viennese Line

Art and Design Circa 1900

November 18, 1996 - January 4, 1997


Emil Nolde - Christian Rohlfs

Two German Expressionist Masters

September 24, 1996 - November 9, 1996


Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996


Sue Coe's Ship of Fools

March 26, 1996 - May 24, 1996


New York Folk

Lawrence Lebduska, Abraham Levin, Isreal Litwak

January 16, 1996 - March 16, 1996


The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996


From Left to Right

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933

September 19, 1995 - November 4, 1995


Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


Earl Cummingham - Grandma Moses

Visions of America

January 17, 1995 - March 18, 1995


Drawn to Text: Comix Artists as Book Illustrators

November 15, 1994 - January 7, 1995


Three Berlin Artists of the Weimar Era: Hannah Höch, Käthe Kollwitz, Jeanne Mam

September 13, 1994 - November 5, 1994


55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994


Sue Coe: We All Fall Down

March 29, 1994 - May 27, 1994


The Forgotten Folk Art of the 1940's

January 18, 1994 - March 19, 1994


Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994


Art and Politics in Weimar Germany

September 14, 1993 - November 6, 1993


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993


The "Outsider" Question

Non-Academic Art from 1900 to the Present

March 23, 1993 - May 28, 1993


The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993


Art Spiegelman

The Road to Maus

November 17, 1992 - January 9, 1993


Käthe Kollwitz

In Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth

September 15, 1992 - November 7, 1992


Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992


Richard Gerstl/Oskar Kokoschka

March 17, 1992 - May 9, 1992


Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992


Viennese Graphic Design

From Secession to Expressionism

November 19, 1991 - January 11, 1992


The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991


Recent Acquisitions

Themes and Variations

May 14, 1991 - August 16, 1991


Sue Coe Retrospective

Political Document of a Decade

March 12, 1991 - May 5, 1991


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, drawings and prints

January 22, 1991 - March 2, 1991


Egon Schiele

November 13, 1990 - January 12, 1991


Lovis Corinth

A Retrospective

September 11, 1990 - November 3, 1990


Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990


Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin

A Study in Influences

March 27, 1990 - June 2, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


Grandma Moses

November 14, 1989 - January 13, 1990


Sue Coe

Porkopolis--Animals and Industry

September 19, 1989 - November 4, 1989


The Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989


Gustav Klimt

Paintings and Drawings

April 11, 1989 - June 10, 1989


Fifty Years Galerie St. Etienne: An Overview

February 14, 1989 - April 1, 1989


Folk Artists at Work

Morris Hirshfield, John Kane and Grandma Moses

November 15, 1988 - January 14, 1989


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988


From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988


Three Pre-Expressionists

Lovis Corinth Käthe Kollwitz Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 26, 1988 - March 12, 1988


Käthe Kollwitz

The Power of the Print

November 17, 1987 - January 16, 1988


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987


Folk Art of This Century

February 10, 1987 - March 28, 1987


Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987


Viennese Design and Wiener Werkstätte

September 23, 1986 - November 8, 1986


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, Drawings and Prints

May 27, 1986 - September 13, 1986


Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986


Käthe Kollwitz/Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 28, 1986 - March 15, 1986


The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985


Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


Expressionist Masters

January 18, 1985 - March 23, 1985


Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna

November 13, 1984 - January 5, 1985


Grandma Moses and Selected Folk Paintings

September 25, 1984 - November 3, 1984


American Folk Art

People, Places and Things

June 12, 1984 - September 14, 1984


John Kane

Modern America's First Folk Painter

April 17, 1984 - May 25, 1984


Eugène Mihaesco

The Illustrator as Artist

February 28, 1984 - April 7, 1984


Early Expressionist Masters

January 17, 1984 - February 18, 1984


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Germany's Pioneer Modernist

November 15, 1983 - January 7, 1984


Gustav Klimt

Drawings and Selected Paintings

September 20, 1983 - November 5, 1983


Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983


Alfred Kubin

Visions From The Other Side

March 22, 1983 - May 7, 1983


20th Century Folk

The First Generation

January 18, 1983 - March 12, 1983


Grandma Moses

The Artist Behind the Myth

November 15, 1982 - January 8, 1983


Käthe Kollwitz

The Artist as Printmaker

September 28, 1982 - November 6, 1982


Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982


The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982


19th and 20th Century European and American Folk Art

January 19, 1982 - March 6, 1982


The Folk Art Tradition

Naïve Painting in Europe and the United States

November 17, 1981 - January 9, 1982


Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981


Eugène Mihaesco

His First American One-Man Show

March 3, 1981 - April 11, 1981


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele

November 12, 1980 - December 27, 1980


Summer Exhibition

June 17, 1980 - October 31, 1980


Kollwitz: The Drawing and The Print

May 1, 1980 - June 10, 1980


40th Anniversary Exhibition

November 13, 1979 - December 28, 1979


American Primitive Art

November 22, 1977


Käthe Kollwitz

December 1, 1976


Neue Galerie-Galerie St. Etienne

A Documentary Exhibition

May 1, 1976


Martin Pajeck

January 27, 1976


Georges Rouault and Frans Masereel

April 29, 1972


Branko Paradis

December 1, 1971


Käthe Kollwitz

February 3, 1971


Egon Schiele

The Graphic Work

October 19, 1970


Gustav Klimt

March 20, 1970


Friedrich Hundertwasser

May 6, 1969


Austrian Art of the 20th Century

March 21, 1969


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

October 31, 1968


Yugoslav Primitive Art

April 30, 1968


Alfred Kubin

January 30, 1968


Käthe Kollwitz

In the Cause of Humanity

October 23, 1967


Abraham Levin

September 26, 1967


Karl Stark

April 5, 1967


Gustav Klimt

February 4, 1967


The Wiener Werkstätte

November 16, 1966


Oskar Laske

October 25, 1965


Käthe Kollwitz

May 1, 1965


Egon Schiele

Watercolors and Drawings from American Collections

March 1, 1965


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

November 21, 1964


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964


Mary Urban

June 9, 1964


Werner Berg, Jane Muus and Mura Dehn

May 5, 1964


Eugen Spiro

April 4, 1964


B. F. Dolbin

Drawings of an Epoch

March 3, 1964


Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964


Joseph Rifesser

December 3, 1963


Panorama of Yugoslav Primitive Art

October 21, 1963


Joe Henry

Watercolors of Vermont

May 1, 1963


French Impressionists

March 8, 1963


Grandma Moses

Memorial Exhibition

November 26, 1962


Group Show

October 15, 1962


Ernst Barlach

March 23, 1962


Martin Pajeck

February 24, 1962


Paintings by Expressionists

January 27, 1962


Käthe Kollwitz

November 11, 1961


Grandma Moses

September 7, 1961


My Friends

Fourth Biennial of Pictures by American School Children

May 27, 1961


Raimonds Staprans

April 17, 1961


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961


Marvin Meisels

January 23, 1961


Egon Schiele

November 15, 1960


My Life's History

Paintings by Grandma Moses

September 12, 1960


Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960


Martin Pajeck

February 29, 1960


Eugen Spiro

February 6, 1960


Käthe Kollwitz

December 14, 1959


Josef Scharl

Last Paintings and Drawings

November 11, 1959


European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959


Our Town

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 23, 1959


Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

May 1, 1959


Gustav Klimt

April 1, 1959


Käthe Kollwitz

January 12, 1959


Oskar Kokoschka

October 28, 1958


Village Life in Guatemala

Paintings by Andres Curuchich

June 3, 1958


Two Unknown American Expressionists

Paintings by Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

April 28, 1958


Paula Modersohn-Becker

March 15, 1958


The Great Tradition in American Painting

American Primitive Art

January 20, 1958


Jules Lefranc and Dominique Lagru

Two French Primitives

November 18, 1957


Margret Bilger

October 22, 1957


The Four Seasons

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

June 11, 1957


Grandma Moses

May 6, 1957


Alfred Kubin

April 3, 1957


Franz Lerch

March 2, 1957


Egon Schiele

January 21, 1957


Josef Scharl

Memorial Exhibition

November 17, 1956


Irma Rothstein

May 19, 1956


Käthe Kollwitz

April 16, 1956


A Tribute to Grandma Moses

November 28, 1955


As I See Myself

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 20, 1955


Juan De'Prey

April 19, 1955


Erich Heckel

March 29, 1955


Freddy Homburger

March 2, 1955


Masters of the 19th Century

January 18, 1955


Oskar Kokoschka

November 29, 1954


Isabel Case Borgatta and Josef Scharl

October 12, 1954


James N. Rosenberg and Eugen Spiro

April 30, 1954


Per Krogh

April 2, 1954


Cuno Amiet

February 16, 1954


Eniar Jolin

January 14, 1954


Irma Rothstein

December 8, 1953


Josef Scharl

November 11, 1953


Grandma Moses

October 21, 1953 - October 24, 1953


Wilhelm Kaufmann

September 30, 1953


Lovis Corinth, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

May 27, 1953


A Grandma Moses Album

Recent Paintings, 1950-1953

April 15, 1953


Streeter Blair

American Primitive

February 26, 1953


Paintings on Glass

Austrian Religious Folk Art of the 17th to 19th Centuries

December 4, 1952


Hasan Kaptan

Paintings of a Ten-Year-Old Turkish Painter

October 29, 1952


Margret Bilger

May 10, 1952


American Natural Painters

March 31, 1952


Ten Years of New York Concert Impressions by Eugen Spiro; Four New Paintings by

January 26, 1952


I-Fa-Wei

Watercolors of New York by a Chinese Artist

December 1, 1951


Käthe Kollwitz

October 25, 1951


Drawings and Watercolors by Austrian Children

May 21, 1951


Grandma Moses

Twenty-Five Masterpieces of Primitive Art

March 17, 1951


Roswitha Bitterlich

January 18, 1951


Oskar Laske

Watercolors of Vienna and the Salzkammergut

October 14, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

May 11, 1950


Austrian Art of the 19th Century

From Wadlmüller to Klimt

April 1, 1950


Chiao Ssu-Tu

February 18, 1950


Anton Faistauer

January 1, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

November 30, 1949


Autograph Exhibition

October 26, 1949


Gladys Wertheim Bachrach

May 24, 1949


Oskar Kokoschka

March 30, 1949


Eugen Spiro

February 19, 1949


Frans Masereel

January 13, 1949


Ten Years Grandma Moses

November 22, 1948


Käthe Kollwitz

Masterworks

October 18, 1948


American Primitives

June 3, 1948


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

April 5, 1948


Miriam Richman

February 7, 1948


Vally Wieselthier

Memorial Exhibition

January 10, 1948


Christmas Exhibition

December 4, 1947


Fritz von Unruh

November 10, 1947


Käthe Kollwitz

October 4, 1947


Grandma Moses

May 17, 1947


Lovis Corinth

April 16, 1947


Hugo Steiner-Prag

March 15, 1947


Mark Baum

January 11, 1947


Eugen Spiro

November 25, 1946


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

May 17, 1946


Ladis W. Sabo

Paintings by a New Primitive Artist

April 8, 1946


Georges Rouault

The Graphic Work

February 26, 1946


Käthe Kollwitz

Memorial Exhibition

November 21, 1945


Fred E. Robertson

Paintings by an American Primitive

June 13, 1945


Max Liebermann

The Graphic Work

April 18, 1945


Vienna through Four Centuries

March 1, 1945


Eugen Spiro

January 20, 1945


Grandma Moses

New Paintings

December 5, 1944


Käthe Kollwitz

Part II

October 26, 1944


A Century of French Graphic Art

From Géricault to Picasso

September 28, 1944


Max Liebermann

Memorial Exhibition

June 9, 1944


Juan De'Prey

Paintings by a Self-Taught Artist from Puerto Rico

May 6, 1944


Abraham Levin

April 15, 1944


Lesser Ury

Memorial Exhibition

March 21, 1944


Grandma Moses

Paintings by the Senior of the American Primitives

February 9, 1944


Betty Lane

January 11, 1944


WaIt Disney Cavalcade

December 9, 1943


Käthe Kollwitz

Part I

November 3, 1943


Will Barnet

September 29, 1943


Lovis Corinth

May 26, 1943


Josephine Joy

Paintings by an American Primitive

May 3, 1943


Oskar Kokoschka

Aspects of His Art

March 31, 1943


Eugen Spiro

February 13, 1943


Seymour Lipton

January 18, 1943


Illuminated Gothic Woodcuts

Printed and Painted, 1477-1493

December 5, 1942


Abraham Levin

November 4, 1942


Walt Disney Originals

September 23, 1942


Documents which Relate History

Documents of Historical Importance and Landmarks of Human Development

June 10, 1942


Honoré Daumier

April 29, 1942


Bertha Trabich

Memorial Exhibition of a Russian-American Primitive

March 25, 1942


Alfred Kubin

Master of Drawing

December 4, 1941


Egon Schiele

November 7, 1941


Betty Lane

June 3, 1941


Flowers from Old Vienna

18th and Early 19th Century Flower Painting

May 7, 1941


Weavings by Navaho and Hopi Indians and Photos of Indians by Helen M. Post

January 29, 1941


Georg Merkel

November 7, 1940


What a Farm Wife Painted

Works by Mrs. Anna Mary Moses

October 9, 1940


Saved from Europe

Masterpieces of European Art

July 1, 1940


American Abstract Art

May 22, 1940


Franz Lerch

May 1, 1940


Wilhelm Thöny

April 3, 1940


French Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries

February 29, 1940


H. W. Hannau

Metropolis, Photographic Studies of New York

February 2, 1940


Oskar Kokoschka

January 9, 1940


Austrian Masters

November 13, 1939


PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER

Art and Life

November 3, 2015 - March 19, 2016

ARTISTS

Modersohn-Becker, Paula

Modersohn, Otto

Vogeler, Heinrich

ESSAY

For somewhere an old enmity exists

between our life and that great work we do

Rainer Maria Rilke

"Requiem for a Friend"

 

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) was almost completely unknown when she died following childbirth at the age of thirty-one, but within fifteen years she had become a near mythic figure in her native Germany. Posthumous exhibitions were staged at museums and prestigious galleries throughout the country. The artist’s letters and journals, limited excerpts from which were first published in 1913, became a bestseller when an expanded edition appeared in 1919-20. And she was famously eulogized by Rainer Maria Rilke, whose early career had been intimately intertwined with hers. Although these literary elements did not exactly overshadow Modersohn-Becker’s art, they gave her story a tragic cast that belies the unsentimental rigor of her achievement.

 

As Eric Torgersen notes in Dear Friend, his insightful study of Rilke and Modersohn-Becker, the poet believed that art is a vocation incompatible with the requirements of ordinary life. In “Requiem for a Friend,” Rilke accused the painter of choosing life over art, “falling back” into a conventional marriage and hence succumbing to a postpartum embolism. Even as he mourned his friend’s premature death, he blamed her for it. Feminists, too, have often presented Modersohn-Becker as a victim— in this case not of her own maternal longings, but of a patriarchal society that would not permit her to live independently as an artist. Modersohn-Becker, however, did not believe that art and life are incompatible. Her triumph lay in overcoming the practical obstacles life placed in her way to create paintings of surpassing greatness.

 

Paula Becker had the good and ill fortune to be born at a time when traditional gender roles were just begin- ning to be questioned. Aspiring female painters could not attend the art academies in most European cities, but they did have access to any number of alternative, although inferior, institutions. Marriage was still a woman’s only real path to financial security, but there were employment options, albeit severely constrained, for those unable or unwilling to wed. Paula’s father, Woldemar Becker, insisted she obtain teaching credentials, because he feared she was too headstrong to please a mate. Through a combination of persistence, luck and grudging parental acquiescence, Paula managed instead to pursue her passion for art. While taking teacher training, she squeezed in drawing lessons. After completing the training course in 1895, she convinced her mother to let her attend the School of Drawing and Painting run by the Berlin Association of Female Artists and Friends of Art. Just when it seemed Paula would finally have to seek a teaching post, a windfall inheritance enabled her to continue her art studies in Berlin and to move, in 1898, to the artists’ colony in Worpswede.

 

The Worpswede colony had been founded in 1889 by the painters Fritz Mackensen, Otto Modersohn and Hans am Ende, who were later joined by Carl Vinnen, Fritz Overbeck and Heinrich Vogeler. Worpswede was a striking rural redoubt—characterized by seemingly endless flat moors beneath a vast cloudscape—about fifteen miles from Bremen. Here the artists sought an antidote to all the perceived failings of contemporary society, from their own conservative academic training to the perils of industrialization. Worpswede’s peasants, who eked out a meager living farming and cutting peat, offered an implicit moral rebuke to the urban middle class. Though the art colony’s ideas had been anticipated decades earlier by the French Barbizon school, in the comparatively provincial German north, the Worpswede painters were “modern” enough to offend Woldemar Becker, even as they entranced his young daughter.

 

Landscape was a primary subject for the Worpswede artists. “I value most highly the description of Nature in its simplicity,” Otto Modersohn wrote, “since Nature surely possesses a more original power than the most assiduous conscious efforts of men.” Paula Becker was in part attracted to Worpswede by the local scenery, poetically likening the pine trees to muscular men and the birches to delicate virgins or bold “modern women.” Yet early on she chafed against the “devout representation of nature” espoused by Mackensen. She was driven to go beyond surface appearances, to drill down to the essence of things. “My own personal feeling, that is the main thing,” she declared. “Once I have got that pinned down, clear in its form and color, only then do I introduce things from nature, which will make my picture have a natural effect.” Less than a year after arriving at the artists’ colony, Becker recognized that no one there really shared her goals. “I believe I shall grow away from here,” she wrote.

 

So it was that on December 31, 1899, Becker set off for Paris, entering the capital of the international art world on the first day of a new century. Paris was a Mecca for artists from all over Europe, who rotated among the Académie Julian, the Académie Colarossi and the École des Beaux-Arts. Beyond a wealth of formal educational opportunities, Paris offered the stimulus of artistic camaraderie and exposure to a vast array of art in commercial galleries, museums and above all, at the Louvre. After Worpswede, Becker found the city’s bustle overwhelming, even as she basked in its many pleasures. She also struggled to reconcile French joie de vivre with the relative stodginess of her native land. “Now I can feel how we in Germany are far from being liberated,” she wrote Modersohn. “We do not rise above things,... we cling too much to the past.” “I like to look at French art,” Modersohn responded, “even if in the long run it makes one return all the more emphatically to one’s own work. For it is a great pleasure to be a German, to feel German, to think German.”

 

Putting distance, geographically and artistically, between herself and Worpswede, Becker nonetheless singled out Modersohn as the one member of the group who had risen above “the mountain of conventionality.” She urged him to come to Paris for the Universal Exposition, a grand multinational display that included two huge exhibitions of recent art. Burdened with a tubercular wife and a small daughter, the 35-year-old painter hesitated but finally acquiesced to Becker’s girlish pleading. Modersohn’s visit, however, was cut short by the sudden news of his wife’s death. Becker followed him back to Worpswede, where after the passage of a discreet interval, they publically affirmed the feelings that had been evident already in Paris. The couple married in May 1901.

 

At the outset Paula and Otto shared a deep artistic bond. Otto reciprocated his bride’s admiration, no doubt seeing her as a promising protégé. “She has wit, spirit, fantasy,” he noted in his journal. “She has a splendid sense of color and form....At the same time that I am able to give her [a greater sense of] intimacy, she gives me something of her greatness, her freedom, her lapidary quality.” Marriage to Modersohn, already well established professionally, allowed Paula to evade her father’s persistent demands that she seek gainful employment and instead to go on painting. Every morning after breakfast she would vanish into her own separate studio, rented from a Worpswede family, the Brünjes. Sometimes she and Otto painted or sketched side-by-side on the moors or at the local poorhouse. Though their work from this time can look confusingly similar, Paula was less interested than her husband in realistic verisimilitude. She sought a more reductive approach, a means to express “the gentle vibration of things.” “I must strive for the utmost simplicity united with the most intimate power of observation,” she wrote. “That is where greatness lies.”

 

Paula remained in Worpswede with Otto for over a year and a half after their marriage, sharing what at first seemed to both a creative idyll. In addition to drawing and painting, she experimented with etching during this period, a technique she learned from Heinrich Vogeler. Vogeler, the youngest member of the original Worspwede group, was more influenced by Jugendstil design than the others. Jugendstil touched upon the organic simplicity Paula craved, but the style also incorporated decorative elements that were totally at odds with her broader goals. Though undeniably productive, she was reaching the limit of what could be learned in Worspwede. Otto’s work began to strike her as insufficiently adventuresome. “We Germans always obediently paint our pictures from top to bottom and are much too ponderous,” she told him. “[Paula] doesn’t believe me when I say I have now really had very important insights,” he grumbled.

 

In February 1903, Modersohn-Becker returned to Paris, leaving Otto behind. Rainer Maria Rilke and his wife, the sculptor Clara Westhoff (a friend and Worpswede colleague of Paula’s), were also there, and the three often visited exhibitions together. Rainer Maria introduced Paula to Rodin, Clara’s sometime teacher and the subject of the poet’s latest book. As a painter, Modersohn-Becker found Rodin’s drawings especially inspiring, marveling at their color and the artist’s “total lack of concern for convention.” Viewing an exhibition of Japanese woodcuts and scrolls with the Rilkes, she again bemoaned the comparative poverty of German painting. “Our art is very meager in expressing the emotions,” Paula wrote Otto. “We must put more weight on the fundamentals!” Among her most important discoveries on this second trip to Paris was the Louvre’s antiquities collection. “I have a real sense of being able to learn from the heads of ancient sculpture,” she exulted. “What grand and simple insight went into their creation! Brows, eyes, mouth, nose, cheek, chin, that is all. It sounds so simple and yet it’s so very, very much.” Egyptian mummy portraits, especially, seemed to offer the solution she had been seeking: radical simplification that yet retained a closeness to nature. Alluding simultaneously to life and death, presence and absence, these portrait heads evoke the eternal. Modersohn-Becker was enthralled as well by the tactile immediacy of the small encaustic paintings, which she tried to emulate by layering her colors and scarifying the pigment with the sharp end of her brush.

 

Modersohn-Becker came home to Otto in March, earlier than planned, but the couple’s creative idyll was not to resume. During those few weeks in Paris, Paula’s artistic vision had become irreconcilably estranged from that of her husband. “She hates to be conventional and is now falling prey to the error of preferring to make everything angular, ugly, bizarre, wooden,” Otto complained. “Her colors are wonderful—but the form? The expression! Hands like spoons, noses like cobs, mouths like wounds, faces like cretins.” Inevitably, the artistic falling-out was accompanied by a domestic one. For a man of his generation, Otto permitted his wife an exceptional degree of autonomy—a stance facilitated by the fact that he could afford to hire household help. Still, he repeatedly bemoaned Paula’s lack of family feeling, the “egotism” that had also been a sore point with her parents. “It must be the most difficult thing for a woman to be highly developed spiritually and to be intelligent, and still be completely feminine,” he commented in his journal. “These modern women cannot really love.... They think that egotism, independence, conceit are the best things there are; and no happy marriage can come from that.” Paula did her best to be a good mother to Otto’s daughter Elsbeth and to “calm the waves” that arose amongst the three of them. “In many little things I give in,” she noted. “But in a few big things I could almost not give in, even if I really wanted to.” And in this she was resolved: she would go back to Paris, which she now recognized as “my city.”

 

Modersohn-Becker’s third Parisian sojourn, in early 1905, was overshadowed by her husband’s misgivings. Otto’s visit to fetch her in April, shortly after his mother’s death, proved particularly disastrous. “He was very jealous of Paris, French art, French nonchalance...etc.,” Paula told her sister. “He imagined that I only preferred to stay in Paris and thought nothing at all of Worpswede.” As the rift between the two deepened, even Otto could admit that Worpswede had been “a great mistake.” “One gets stuck in the swamp,” he wrote. “One turns sour.” But it was too late. In February 1906 Paula departed for Paris for the fourth and final time, intending never to return. “Now I have left Otto Modersohn and am standing between my old life and my new life,” she announced. “I wonder what will become of me in my new life? Now whatever must be, will be.”

 

As the Modersohn-Becker scholar Günter Busch notes, the artist did not try to copy painters she admired, but rather took from each aspects that suited her agenda. Nor did she feel compelled to follow a preordained art-historical trajectory. She skipped about, from the ancient to the contemporary, always with both eyes focused on her idiosyncratic goals. Modersohn-Becker had encountered Cézanne and possibly the Nabis on her first Parisian trip, and she was familiar with Gauguin by 1903, if not earlier. However, these influences did not become fully evident in her work until 1906. All the aforementioned artists (including Modersohn-Becker) were grappling with the by-then oppressive legacy of Impressionism, with its avowed reliance on transitory optical effects. As an alternative, the Post-Impressionists stressed the autonomy of the artwork, recognizing (in the famous words of Maurice Denis) that a painting, regardless of its ostensible subject, is “essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.” Modersohn-Becker was deeply impressed by the colors and forms of Gauguin and Cézanne, but she never abandoned her underlying fidelity to nature. Rather, she saw abstract pictorial elements as a means to penetrate the visible world, to capture what Busch calls the “innermost substance” of her subjects, their “spiritual impact.”

 

There is a marked stillness to Modersohn-Becker’s paintings: an airless flattening of space and, in her faces, a masklike opacity reminiscent of the mummy portraits. At the same time, there is a reassuring solidity to her figures and an exultation in the quotidian that anchors her still-lifes to reality. Countering Impressionism, the artist created iconic images that transcend momentary experiences, be they perceptual or emotional. She eschewed both the abstractionist tendencies of the French and the bold urgency characteristic of the German Expressionists. Modersohn-Becker was a modern painter, but she was not a “painter of modern life.” Her subject was not change, but the changeless.

 

Modersohn-Becker saw Worpswede as a repository for primordial values. Attracted initially by the landscape’s formal simplicity—flat plains and a low horizon bisected by an occasional tree—she found herself increasingly drawn to the human element. Children (with and without mothers) became her most frequent figural subject. The local peasant women and their offspring were readily accessible and did not charge much to pose. (Of course trees, flowers, fruit and crockery cost nothing.) Like male art students, Modersohn-Becker took life drawing classes, and therefore the female nude was another common subject, especially in her drawings. When models were scarce, she could always turn the mirror (or a camera) on herself. It has been said that Modersohn-Becker was the first woman to paint herself naked. However, if the artist’s primary subjects were partly determined by circumstance, they also formed an organic trinity, a conjoined exploration of nature, childhood and feminine identity.

 

These interests were not unique to Modersohn- Becker. Rilke, for example, believed that, “Children see nature differently; lonely children, especially...join her with a kind of like-mindedness and live in her as small animals do—given over completely to the events of the forest and the sky.” Artists, in Rilke’s mind, were like these “lonely children,” striving to recapture an innocent unity with nature. Woman, too, was closer to nature than man, in that she was “physical far into her soul and designed for bringing forth living offspring.” Yet while Rilke and other fin-de-siècle males admired women for their power to nurture life, they felt threatened by female sexual desire. The childbearing and sexual aspects of femininity were walled off in the distinct categories of the “Madonna” and the “whore,” expressed artistically in the genres of the mother and child and the nude. As a woman, Modersohn-Becker recognized that this attempt to separate procreation from sex was ludicrous, and she deliberately defied it by painting pregnant nudes (a longstanding artistic taboo). Her nudes, however, lack the undercurrent of lust and the elements of visual titillation that inevitably color male iterations of the subject. She saw women “as fruit,” Rilke remarked in the “Requiem.” (And, one might add, she saw fruit as living bodies.) Rilke believed that her paintings were holy, because they transcended mortal desire. But this observation was not accurate. It was just that Modersohn-Becker had a female point of view.

 

Modersohn-Becker wanted to have children and considered childbearing one of the sacred mysteries of human life. Nevertheless, she put off motherhood to concentrate on her work and also, evidently, because Otto was unable to consummate their marriage. He was understandably devastated when she left him and beseeched her to take him back. Paula, making great artistic strides in Paris, repeatedly rejected these entreaties, even as she remained reliant upon Otto for financial support. Her decision, eventually, to reconcile with her husband was a capitulation to the social realities of the period, but in no way an abdication of her artistic mission. On the contrary, only marriage offered the economic stability required for Paula to continue painting. And Otto promised to do whatever she wanted, to travel more, to go to Paris... which he did, in October 1906. Here, it seems, they made love for the first time; when Paula returned to Worpswede in April 1907, she was pregnant.

 

In returning to Worspwede and Otto, Modersohn-Becker was not (as Rilke believed) choosing life over art. Just as she tried to imbue her paintings with vital substance, she saw no reason for an artist to withdraw from the living world. Rilke’s dichotomy is false. Nevertheless, women today still struggle with “work-life balance.” And the female body remains a contested, politically charged site. Paula Modersohn-Becker, though no feminist, was the first painter to engage these issues, the first to depict the nude from a woman’s perspective. Difficult to place in the male-dominated art-historical canon, her work continues to challenge preconceptions regarding the “feminine.”