Paula Modersohn-Becker


Private collection, Dusseldorf

Private collection, North Rhine-Westphalia

The double painting was created in a very special year, because 1901 was the year of weddings for the Worpswede artists’ colony: Martha and Heinrich Vogeler were the first couple to wed, followed by Clara and Rainer Maria Rilke in April, and then Paula and Otto Modersohn were married on May 25. After an extensive honeymoon, a phase of mutual inspiration and intense work began: Paula Modersohn-Becker created over two hundred paintings between 1901 and 1902.

Paula continued to long for city life, however, and so she traveled to Paris again in the spring of 1903 and in February 1905. She was attracted to the cosmopolitan attitude and artistic sensibility of the metropolis. She studied at the Académie Colarossi and visited museums and galleries. She was enthralled by how many artists she could see there and was particularly drawn to Paul Gauguin and the Nabis, an artist group with whom she felt a real connection.

When Paula Modersohn first came to Worpswede in 1898, she had no idea how much this landscape would shape her life and work. In 1901, she married the local artist Otto Modersohn and from then on took the name Modersohn-Becker. In the same year, she painted the impressive painting “Kinder vor Bauernhaus” (verso: “Birkenstämme und Haus”). After traveling for their honeymoon, an intense workphase of mutual inspiration began for the couple: Paula Modersohn-Becker produced over 200 paintings in the years 1901 to 1902, the main motifs being the people and landscape around Worpswede. The artist was particularly fascinated by peasant children, absorbed in play, alone, or herding animals. Standing together in front of a farmhouse, yet each isolated, Modersohn-Becker sketches here unadorned and incredibly precise the dynamics between the children, who seem to be waiting for something. The captured moment pays homage to the idyll of village life without glossing over it.

On the reverse is a completely different motif, which is no less typical for the artist: the birch tree. The filigree shaded trunks point towards the sky and in the horizontal format leave no room for the tree crown—thus outgrowing the picture. The sparse island of trees offers a view of gentle hills and a simple farmhouse in the background. The overcast colour palette of the landscape, dominated by brown tones, makes the delicate colouring of the sky seem surprisingly intense and positively breaks open the clouds.

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