Untitled by Charlotte Salomon

“While beginning to paint the buttercup-strewn meadow where she happens to be sitting, she decides to make his prophecy come true and actually create something ‘above average.’ ”

Life? or Theatre? provides a compendium of the circumstances that led—perhaps compelled—Salomon to become an artist, and there are two portraits of Charlotte Kann in Life? or Theatre? that, viewed side by side, embody the essence of Salomon’s story. In the first painting, which appears just over halfway through the work, a young woman sits with her feet curled under her to the side, like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. This gouache presents the girl in a pink dress, sitting in a green field dotted with impertinent yellow buttercups, a warm blue sky above the green horizon, a distillation of youthful femininity. The young woman’s face is obscured; we look over her shoulder, seeing the vista she sees. She cradles a paintbrush and canvas close to her body, as if emanations from her belly, the woman and her work inseparable.

The second image—the final, and most famous, in“Life? or Theatre?— [http://curiator.com/art/charlotte-salomon/leben-oder-theater-life-or-theater] arrives 325 panels later, and shows the same figure in the same pose, one which also, brazenly, contains Salomon’s initials, writ large in her body’s curves. But now she is half-naked, almost translucent, and dressed in a modern dark-green halter swimsuit, her tanned bare back a billboard for her title: “LEBEN ODER THEATER?” Between these two paintings, one can see, in a single grand sweep, that, contrary to easy supposition, Salomon’s is not outsider art but rather work that displays the curves and soothing colors of Romanticism along with the severe angles and stark blues, reds, and browns of Modernism. There are hints, too, of Cézanne, van Gogh, Dufy, Chagall, Gauguin, Modigliani, Beckmann, Kirchner, Dix, Nolde, even Friedrich; her feet are Picassian triangles. But most of all we see, in her tender yet dispassionate rendering of a young woman transfigured into a painter—her pain turned into beauty—Salomon’s confrère Edvard Munch....
[Complete article https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-obsessive-art-and-great-confession-of-charlotte-salomon]
Click to select the cover image for this artwork.
Imported from: media.newyorker.com
Media: gouache