Charcoal with stumping
Support: Beige(1) modern laid paper
Sheet: 62.2 x 33.9 cm (24 1/2 x 13 3/8 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1973.35
Paula Modersohn-Becker's career was extremely brief but prolific before dying from complications of childbirth at age 31.
Although Paula Modersohn-Becker died in 1907, just as the Expressionist groups in Dresden and Munich were forming, the themes of her work prefigure the movement. This likely self-portrait exhibits her desire to convey not the idealized appearance of the female body but rather its fundamental essence, stripped of all the world’s trappings. She distilled the human body into flattened forms—achieved by erasing and blending the charcoal—and abbreviated the delineation of the feet, hands, and face. The sitter’s piercing stare invites the viewer to move beyond the body as flesh and blood toward her emotional or spiritual state.
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