Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory

An enlightening and overdue re-evaluation of the masterwork of a complex and under-appreciated artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943) is renowned for a single, monumental, modernist artwork, Life? or Theatre? (Leben? oder Theater?), comprising 784 paintings and created between 1941 and 1942. This major art-historical study sheds new light on the remarkable combination of image, text and music, revealing Salomon’s wealth of references to cinema, opera, Berlin cabaret, and the painter’s self-consciously deployed modernist engagements with artists such as Van Gogh, Munch and Kollwitz. Additionally, Pollock draws attention to affinities in Salomon’s work with that of others who shared her experience of statelessness and menaced exile in Nazi-dominated Europe, including Hannah Arendt, Sigmund Freud, and Walter Benjamin. In a reading informed by a rich range of insights originating in feminist theories of subjectivity, story-telling, memory, and trauma, Pollock confronts shocking new evidence of the extremity of the young artist’s last few months, and discovers in Leben? oder Theater? profound testimony to the everyday crime of familial sexual abuse of women. Through her comprehensive research and many years of observation of the paintings, Griselda Pollock’s account claims for this impressive and important work its rightful place in the art of the 20th century.

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An enlightening and overdue re-evaluation of the masterwork of a complex and under-appreciated artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943) is renowned for a single, monumental, modernist artwork, Life? or Theatre? (Leben? oder Theater?), comprising 784 paintings and created between 1941 and 1942. This major art-historical study sheds new light on the remarkable combination of image, text and music, revealing Salomon’s wealth of references to cinema, opera, Berlin cabaret, and the painter’s self-consciously deployed modernist engagements with artists such as Van Gogh, Munch and Kollwitz. Additionally, Pollock draws attention to affinities in Salomon’s work with that of others who shared her experience of statelessness and menaced exile in Nazi-dominated Europe, including Hannah Arendt, Sigmund Freud, and Walter Benjamin. In a reading informed by a rich range of insights originating in feminist theories of subjectivity, story-telling, memory, and trauma, Pollock confronts shocking new evidence of the extremity of the young artist’s last few months, and discovers in Leben? oder Theater? profound testimony to the everyday crime of familial sexual abuse of women. Through her comprehensive research and many years of observation of the paintings, Griselda Pollock’s account claims for this impressive and important work its rightful place in the art of the 20th century.

 

Publisher: Yale University Press

Hardback

2018

ISBN: 9780300100723