Paula Modersohn-Becker (* 8 February 1876 in Dresden-Friedrichstadt; † 20 November 1907 in Worpswede) was a German painter. She is considered one of the most important representatives of early German Expressionism.
Paula Becker was born in Dresden in 1876 under the name "Minna Hermine Paula Becker". At her parents' request, Becker travels to England in 1892 to stay with her aunt. There she receives her first drawing lessons. In 1896 she took part in a course at the drawing and painting school of the Verein der Künstlerinnen und Kunstfreundinnen in Berlin. At that time, women were still not allowed to study at the art academy.
This course was followed by one and a half years of training in painting in Berlin. During this time, drawing classes dominated, and it was not until 1897 that Becker switched to the painting class of the artist Jeanna Bauck.
Paula Becker in Worpswede and wedding with Otto Modersohn
After this training, Paula Becker moves to Worpswede. There she met Fritz Mackensen, who taught her from then on. She also made the acquaintance of Otto Modersohn, her future husband. In 1899, a small artists' colony was founded in Worpswede, including Fritz Overbeck, Heinrich Vogeler and Clara Westhoff.
In 1900 Paula Becker travels to Paris for the first time. The works of the painter Vincent van Gogh made a lasting impression on her. In 1901, the painter marries the artist Otto Modersohn. The artist's second stay in Paris followed in the spring of 1903. The figurative now gained more and more weight in her paintings. After returning from this trip, she largely withdrew and critically examined what she had created so far.
Her art is free of glossed-over views of the life of the rural population. By reducing and simplifying the formal language, she achieves an increase in the expression of what she depicts. At times, her motifs shift entirely to the outdoors. In doing so, she reduces landscapes to their essential features.
Paula Modersohn-Becker and Paris
Inspired by the Parisian avant-garde, the artist travelled to Paris for a third time in 1905. There she attended a course in nude painting at the Académie Julien. The expressive works of Paul Gauguin in the Autumn Salon encouraged Modersohn-Becker in her own creative work. The stay also encouraged her to devote more time to still life.
Together with her husband, who comes to visit her in Paris, the artist finally travels to Hagen to meet the Osthaus couple and to visit the Folkwang Museum.
In 1906 she leaves Worpswede again to travel to Paris. She financed the trip partly from the proceeds of one of her works to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Although Otto Modersohn is against this stay, he continues to support her financially. In order to further her education, Paula Modersohn-Becker begins attending various courses at the École des Beaux-Arts. During this time she painted many nudes and self-portraits. After a longer stay of her husband in Paris, the couple returned to Worpswede in 1907. In that year her long-awaited wish comes true and she becomes pregnant. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, Paula Modersohn-Becker died of a pulmonary embolism on 20 November 1907.
Struggling for recognition and esteem throughout her life, the artist pursued her own path quite unflinchingly. Starting from the rural idyll of her home, she moved from the motif of the peasant way of life to an expressive, hard-edged colourfulness in the chosen motifs of her still lifes and self-portraits. Posthumously, she finally attained the significance of a pioneer of German Expressionism.