After training in Berlin, Paula Modersohn-Becker joined the artists' colony at Worpswede in northern Germany, but soon left to seek inspiration elsewhere. Fascinated by Paris and the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century, she stayed there often and got to know the artists she admired, among them Rodin, Cézanne, Gauguin, Douanier Rousseau, Picasso and Matisse.

Uncompromisingly modern and ahead of her time, Modersohn-Becker displays a boldly personal aesthetic. If her subjects – including self-portraits, mothers and children, landscapes and still lifes – are typical of the period, her way of addressing them is eminently original. Her works stand out for a powerfully expressive use of colour, extreme sensitivity and an astonishing capacity to capture the very essence of her models. A number of her paintings considered excessively avant-garde were included in the "Degenerate Art" exhibition organised by the Nazis in Munich in 1937.

In numerous self-portraits Modersohn-Becker asserts her identity as a woman, portraying herself intimately and without complacency in an ongoing quest for her inner being.

All her life she was close to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and their correspondence and a number of paintings are fascinating testimony to this friendship. Rilke paid tribute to her in the poem "Requiem for a Friend", written after the artist's death at the age of thirty-one.

Writer Marie Darrieussecq brings a literary eye to Modersohn-Becker's work with contributions to both the exhibition and the catalogue. She is also the author of the artist's first biography in French, Être ici est une splendeur, Vie de Paula M. Becker (Éditions P.O.L, 2016).

Exhibition curator
Julia Garimorth

Marie Darrieussecq, writer, and  Wolfgang Werner, Paula Modersohn-Becker Foundation


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