Thursday, September 08, 2016

New Acquisitions: "Die Gänsemagd" (The Goose Girl) by Paula Modersohn-Becker

A pioneer of European modern art, Paula Modersohn-Becker was an influential participant in the artistic community in Worpswede, in northern Germany, at the start of the 20th century. Trained in Berlin, she became acquainted with the formal innovations of post-impressionists like Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin during a trip to Paris in 1900. Her paintings are often discussed in the scholarship on the period as important precursors to the German expressionist style.

Paula Modernsohn-Becker, Die Gänsemagd (The Goose Girl), ca. 1900

Artists of the Worpswede community sought escape from the industrialization of German cities, often romanticizing rural life in their images. Modersohn-Becker usually selected local children, old women or farmers’ wives as models for her portraits and figure studies, while emphasizing abstract patterns within the forms. Her subject for "Die Gänsemagd" is based on a German fairy tale of the same name from the Brothers Grimm. The exaggerated limbs and contours of her figures recall storybook illustrations and also point to the expressive distortion of forms found in later expressionistic styles. Modersohn-Becker’s career was cut short when she died of an embolism in 1907 at the age of 31. The poet Ranier Maria Rilke, also in Worpswede at this time, wrote “Requiem for a Friend” in her memory in 1908.

"Die Gänsemagd" is currently on display through October 9 in the exhibition "Recent: Acquisitions."

Lynn Boland
Pierre Daura Curator of European Art

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