The Nude Self Portrait


"Self Portrait Age 30, 6th Wedding Day" 1906

Paula Modersohn Becker had a short lived career. She died at the age of 31 from a post pardum embelism. A tragic event under any circumstances and I think a loss for the art world and women painters in particular. Becker is known in part for her nude self-portraits that had a more earthly, nurturing quality to them and a frankness that differed from the more eroticized portrayals of women in Renaissance Art. Without much information about her life I quickly identified the influence of Gaughin here. There's a lovely innocence and natural quality to her paintings that I also resonate with in Gaughin's portrayals of Tahitian women.

"Self Portrait with Amber Necklace"1906

Becker studied at the Berlin
School of Art for Women then
moved to Worpswede an artists
community co-founded by
Otto Modersohn a landscape 
painter whom she later married.

Becker left the art scene in
Worpswede after a harsh review 
in an exhibition and decided to 
meet sculptor and friend 
Clara Westoff in Paris where 
she took up studies
at the Academie Colarossi. 

Women painters had rarely used
nude females as subjects at the
time Becker began this part of her
practice. Artemesia Gentileschi
did three centuries before also
using her own body as 
the reference like Becker.

"Reclining Mother and Child"

Although Becker was trained in realism 
and naturalism she swayed from that
training and became influenced
by the work of Cezanne, Van Gogh 
and Gaughin while in Paris. She is 
recognized today as one the most
famous female artists of the 20th 
Century and in her short career
produced inspiring and masterful
paintings worthy of recognition.

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