“Old Woman from the Poorhouse in the Garden with Glass Ball and Poppies”
By Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1907
Oil on Canvas, 37 9/10 × 31 3/5 in, 96.3 × 80.2 cm
About the Art
The Old Woman from the Poorhouse in the Garden with Glass Ball and Poppies
depicts Paula’s devoted friend among the Worpswede peasants and old people from the poor-house who posed for her. Nicknamed “old Dreebeen”—her much-needed cane served as her third leg—Anna Schroder appears in numerous drawings paintings, and letters (she is first described on 18 September 1898, and last cited in October, 1907 offering folk wisdom about pregnancy). Having first painted several realistic pictures of the old woman, Modersohn-Becker suddenly transformed her into a spooky, apparition from a primitive past, with an ominous crystal ball and looming poppies and foxglove, plants of medicinal and magical power. The style of drawing, the color harmonies the woman’s pose, and even the huge flowers recall Van Gogh’s Berceuse
with her decorative floral background, of which two versions were shown in 1905; this also was an ordinary provincial woman raised to symbolic grandeur as the eternally comforting mother.
About the Artist
Paula Modersohn-Becker was a German painter and one of the most important representatives of early expressionism. Paula Becker was born and grew up in Dresden-Friedrichstadt. She was the third of seven children. Her father, the son of a Russian university professor, was employed with the German railway. He and Modersohn-Becker’s mother, who was from an aristocratic family, provided the children a cultured and intellectual environment in the home. In 1888 her parents moved from Dresden to Bremen. While visiting an aunt in London, England, she received her first instruction in drawing. Apart from her teacher’s training in Bremen in 1893-1895, Paula took private instruction in painting. In 1896 she participated in a course for painting and drawing sponsored by the “Verein der Berliner Kunstlerinnen” (Union of Berlin Female Artists) which offered art studies to women.
At the age of 22, she encountered the artistic community of Worpswede. In this “village”, artists such as Fritz Mackensen (1866-1953) and Heinrich Vogeler (1872-1942) had retreated to protest against the domination of the art academy and life in the big city. At Worpswede, Paula Modersohn-Becker took painting lessons from Mackensen. The main subjects were the life of the farmers and the northern German landscape. At this time she began close friendships with the sculptor Clara Westhoff (1875-1954) and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). She also fell in love during this period, and in 1901 she married a fellow Worpswede painter, Otto Modersohn. In marrying Otto, she also became a step-mother to Otto’s daughter, Elsbeth Modersohn, the child from his first marriage to Helene Modersohn, then deceased.
Between 1900 and 1907, Paula made several extended trips to Paris for artistic purposes, sometimes living separately from her husband, Otto. During one of her residencies in Paris, she took courses at the école des Beaux-Arts. She visited contemporary exhibitions often, and was particularly intrigued with the work of Paul Cézanne. Other post impressionists were especially influential, including Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin. Fauve influences may also appear in such works as Poorhouse Woman with a Glass Bottle. The influence by the work of French painter, Jean-Francois Millet, who was widely admired among the artists in the Worpswede group, may be seen in such pieces as her 1900 Peat Cutters.
In her last trip to Paris in 1906, she produced a body of paintings from which she felt very great excitement and satisfaction. During this period of painting, she produced her initial nude self-portraits (something rather unprecedented by a female painter) and portraits of friends such as Rainer Maria Rilkeand Werner Sombart. Some critics consider this period of her art production to be the strongest and most compelling.
In 1907, Paula Modersohn-Becker returned to her husband in Worpswede. Their relationship, which had been particularly strained in 1906, had taken a turn towards improvement. Paula’s long-lived wish to conceive and bear a child was fulfilled. Her daughter Mathilde (Tillie) Modersohn was born on November 2nd, 1907. Paula and Otto were joyous. Sadly, the joy became soon overshadowed by tragedy, as Paula Modersohn-Becker died suddenly in Worpswede on November 20th from an embolism.
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Create something using an art bead that fits within our monthly theme. We post the art to be used as your inspiration to create. This challenge is open to jewelry-makers, fiber artists, collage artist, etc. The art bead can be created by you or someone else. The challenge is to inspire those who use art beads and to see all the different ways art beads can be incorporated into your handiwork.
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Monthly Challenge Recap
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Perfect Pairings :: Designer + Art Bead Artist
• Formerly the Featured Designer of the Week, our new Perfect Pairings will focus on both the jewelry designer and the art bead artist.
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• From all the entries during the month, an editor will pick their favorite design to be featured every Wednesday here on ABS, so get those entries in soon.
What is an Art Bead?
An art bead is a bead, charm, button or finding made by an independent artist. Art beads are the vision and handiwork of an individual artist. You can read more about art beads here
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