The Royal Academy of Arts will present Making Modernism, the first major UK exhibition devoted to women artists working in Germany in the early 20th century. It will include 67 paintings and works on paper primarily by Paula Modersohn-Becker, Käthe Kollwitz, Gabriele Münter and Marianne Werefkin, with additional works by Erma Bossi, Ottilie Reylaender and Jacoba van Heemskerck. Most of these artworks have never been exhibited in this country before. Although less known than their male counterparts, these artists were central to the development and dissemination of modernism.
Gabriele Münter, Portrait of Anna Roslund, 1917.
The exhibition will be arranged thematically. The opening section, Ourselves and Others will feature self-portraits and portraits, showing the increasing participation of women artists in public life and revealing their crucial role in creating and sustaining the networks that supported various aspects of emergent modernism in Germany. These artists challenged prevailing ideals of feminine roles as confined to the home, and through their questioned how they saw themselves and others. Paintings include Erma Bossi’s Portrait of Marianne Werefkin, 1910 and Gabriele Münter, Portrait of Anna Roslund, 1917.
Marianne Werefkin, Twins, 1909.
The second section, The Century of the Child, titled after Swedish writer Ellen Key’s influential 1900 publication, will explore how each of the artists depicted children. Although domestic themes were part of an established genre, modernist treatments of such subjects depart from sentimental works in which children symbolised simplicity, joy, hope and innocence, to explore melancholy, tension, curiosity and unfulfilled desire. Paintings and drawings will include Werefkin’s Twins, 1909, Kollwitz’s Woman with Dead Child, 1903, Modersohn-Becker’s Girl with Child, 1902 and Münter’s Portrait of a Boy (Willi Blabb), 1908/09.
Käthe Kollwitz, Lovers Nestling Against Each Other, 1909/10.
The next section, Sites of Intimacy will delve into the inner lives of Modersohn-Becker and Kollwitz, further exploring maternal instinct as well as the female body, intimate relationships and eroticism. Key works in this section will include Kollwitz’s Love Scene I, c.1909/1910, Ottilie Reyaender’s Beta naked, c. 1900 and Modersohn-Becker’s Mother with Child on her Arm, Nude II, autumn 1906 and Self-portrait as a Standing Nude with Hat, summer 1906.
A section entitled City and Country: Journeys and Migrations will present paintings of urban life and explore changing roles for women in a variety of contexts; at leisure, at work, while rural subjects reveal the need to take refuge away from the metropolis to produce art that celebrated the natural beauty of the countryside. Works highlight the importance of a sense of place, for example, the artist’s colony of Worpswede for Modersohn-Becker, Murnau for Münter and Ascona for Werefkin. Key works in this section include Landscape with Windblown Trees, 1900; Still-life on the Tram (After Shopping), c.1912, and Circus – Before the Show, 1908/10.
Paula Modersohn-Becker, Still-life with Goldfish Bowl, 1906.
The final part of the exhibition will consider the important role of still life in the work of these artists. The concept of ‘still lives’ brings to mind quiet moments of reflection and meditation recorded by the artists in their letters, diaries and journals. Highlights within this section include Münter’s Apples on the Wall, 1908 and Modersohn-Becker’s Still-life with Goldfish Bowl, 1906.
Open from 12 November 2022 – 12 February 2023
10am – 6pm Tuesday to Sunday
Admission From £17; concessions available; under 16s go free (T&Cs apply);.
For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here
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