Paula Modersohn-Becker

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photo of Paula Modersohn-Becker, year unknown

Paula Modersohn-Becker (February 8, 1876 - November 21, 1907) was a German painter in Worpswede and one of the most important representatives of early German Expressionism. She frequently stayed in Paris and saw the work of modern artists there, like paintings of Cézanne and early Henri Matisse's.

Quotes of Paula Modersohn-Becker[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes of Paula Modersohn-Becker
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1897: 'Self-portrait / Selbstbildnis nach halblinks', gouache-painting; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1897: 'Portrait of a girl in the sun in front of wide landscape', painting on cardboard, in private collection - quote of Paula, 1897, in a letter to her mother: 'Painting people is indeed more beautiful than painting a landscape. I suppose you can notice that I am dead-tired.. ..but inside I am so peaceful and happy..'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1898: 'Squatting girl act', pencil on paper
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1898: 'Farmer's wife with child on the chest', coal and red chalk, on paper; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen - quote of Paula, 1998: 'At present I see before my eyes very simple and barely articulated things. My second major stumbling is my lack of intimacy. Mackensen's [her former teacher] way of portraying the people here [in Worpswede] is not great enough for me, too genre like. Whoever could, ought to capture them in runic script..'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1899: 'Goose Girl / Die Gänsemagd', etching in dark brown on wove paper; location unknown
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1899: 'Gray landscape with moors canal / Graue Landschaft mit Moorkanal', color on paperboard; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen - quote of Paula, Worpswede, 1899: I've made use of the beautiful weather to sketch and paint outside. I had been staying away from color for such a long time.. ..working in color was always a great joy to me'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1899: 'Sitting female nude', coal-drawing on paper; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1899: 'Birch Tree in a Landscape' oil-painting on cardboard; current location: Harvard Art Museums - quote of Paula, 1897: 'And your birch trees – delicate, slender young virgins who delight the eyes. With that relaxed and dreamy face, as if life had not really begun for them.. .We understand each other well and nod friendly answers back and forth. Life, life, life'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1900: 'Still life with blue-white porcelain and tea kettle', painting on cardboard; current location: Lower Saxony State Museum Hanover
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1900: 'Evening landscape with pine trees', color on paperboard; current location: Lower Saxony State Museum Hanover
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1901: 'Two children sitting in a meadow', tempera on cardboard; location unknown
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1901: 'Sandkuhle / Sand pit', painting in color on paperboard; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1902: 'Girl with child in front of red flowers / Mädchen mit Kind vor roten Blumen', oil on canvas; current location: Gemeentemuseum Den Haag The Hague
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1902: 'Row of mourning women / Zug klagender Frauen', painting on cardboard; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1902: 'Child with doll sitting on birch trunk', oil on cardboard; location unknown
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1903: 'Girl with black hat / Mädchen mit schwarzem Hut', tempera on canvas; in private collection - quote of Paula, 1903: 'I feel a burning desire to become grand in simplicity.'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1904: 'Bäuerin mit Kind / Farmer's wife with child', oil on cardboard mounted on panel; location unknown
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1904: 'Mädchen mit Katze im Birkenwald / Girl with cat in birch forest', oil-tempera on canvas; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1904-05: 'Sitting Dreebeen in the garden', color on paperboard; current location: Ahlers collection - quote of her husband Otto: 'What Paula is doing with her art now does not please me.. .A great gift for color – but unpainterly and harsh, particularly in her completed figures. She admires primitive pictures, which is very bad for her.. .She wants to unite color and form – out of the question, the way she does it. She doesn't like to restrain form – a great mistake..'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1905: 'Portrait of Clara Rilke-Westhoff, oil on canvas; location unknown - quote of Paula, Nov. 1905: 'Mornings I am painting Clara Rilke in a white dress. It's to be her head and part of a hand holding a red rose. She looks very beautiful that way, and I hope that I am getting a little of her into my portrait. Her little girl, Ruth is playing next to us.'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1905: 'Girl with rabbit / Mädchen mit Kaninchen', color on paperboard; current location: Von der Heydt Museum Wupertal
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1905: 'Self-portrait with green background and blue irises / Selbstbildnis vor grünem Hintergrund mit Iris', oil-painting on canvas
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1906: 'Still life with fishbowl / Stillleben mit Goldfischglas', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Von der Heydt Museum Wuppertal - quote of Rilke about Paula, 1908: 'For that is what you understood: ripe fruits. You set them before the canvas, in white bowls, and weighed out each one's heaviness with your colors..'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1906: 'Self-portrait', oil-tempera on cardboard; current location: Ludwig Roselius Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1906: 'Otto Modersohn, sleeping', oil-painting on canvas; cuurent location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen - quote of Paula, Nov. 1906: 'This past summer I realized that I am not the sort of woman to stand alone in life.. .The main thing now is peace and quiet for my work, and I have that most of all when I am at Otto Modersohn's side.'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1906-07: 'Lee Hoetger and her sister', gouache on paper; current location: Museum Ostwall Dortmund
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1906-07: 'Self-Portrait on the Sixth Anniversary of her Wedding, painting on cardboard; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen - quote of Susan P. Bachrach about this painting: 'Her longing for a child was so great that in 1906, in her 'Self-Portrait on the Sixth Anniversary of her Wedding', she even portrayed herself as pregnant [of her daughter Mathilde / Tille]! Her face is tinged with sadness, she stands naked, her arms encircling her pregnant stomach.'
Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1907: 'Worpsweder Landschaft / Landscape near Worpswede', oil-painting on canvas; current location: Museum Ludwig Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1907: 'Still life / Stillleben mit blauem Kasten, painting on canvas; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen
Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1907: 'Reclining Mother and Child', painting; current location: Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum Bremen

1897[edit]

  • Worpswede, Worpswede, Worpswede! [small rural village in North-Germany were a colony of German artists was working then, including Paula] My sunken Bell mood! Birches, birches, pine trees and old willows. Beautiful brown moors – exquisite brown! The canals with their black reflections, black as asphalt..
    • Quote from her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as cited in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 192
  • Worpswede, Worpswede, I cannot get you out of my mind. There was such atmosphere there – right down to the tips of your toes. Your magnificent pine trees! I call them my men – thick, gnarled, powerful, and tall – and yet with the most delicate nerves and fibers in them. That is my image of the ideal artist. And your birch trees – delicate, slender young virgins who delight the eyes. With that relaxed and dreamy face, as if life had not really begun for them.. .But then there are some already masculine and bold, with strong and straight trunks. Those are my 'Modern women'. And you willows, with your knotty trunks.. .You are my old men with silver beards. I have company enough, indeed I do, and it's my own private company. We understand each other well and nod friendly answers back and forth. Life, life, life!
    • a quote of her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as cited in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 192
  • Today I painted my first plain air portrait at the clay pit, a little blond and blue-eyed girl. The way the little thing stood in the yellow sand was simply beautiful – a bright and shimmering thing to see. It made my heart leap. Painting people is indeed more beautiful than painting a landscape. I suppose you can notice that I am dead-tired, after this long day of hard work, cant you? But inside I am so peaceful and happy..
    • in a letter to her mother, from Worpswede, August 1897; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker, The Letters and Journals by Paula Modersohn-Becker, eds. Günter Busch, Liselotte von Reinken, Arthur S. Wensinger, Carole Clew Hoey - Northwestern University Press, 1998, p. 79
  • I paint all day. First Becka Brotmann with her loose yellow hair and just a suggestion of dahlias in the background. Then I painted Anni Brotmann at the clay pit, where the sun nearly baked us. In the afternoon I painted Rieke Gefken holding red lilies. I think it is the best thing I've done so far – I'll show it to Mackensen [her teacher in Worpswede] tomorrow. I spent another hour with Vogeler, yesterday.. ..he showed us a sketchbook full of his ideas for etchings.. ..many really fine and original things.
    • in a letter to her mother, from Worpswede, c. 28 August 1897; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker, The Letters and Journals by Paula Modersohn-Becker, eds. Günter Busch, Liselotte von Reinken, Arthur S. Wensinger, Carole Clew Hoey - Northwestern University Press, 1998, p. 81
  • My blonde was here again today. This time with her little boy at her breast. I had to draw her as a mother, had to. That is her single true purpose. Marvelous, these gleaming white breasts in her fiery red blouse. The whole thing is so grand in its shape and color..
    • excerpt of Marianne's Journal, Worpswede 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 193
  • The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff. Her thoughts enter my bloodstream and make me very sad. I say as she doers: if only I could accomplish something! My existence seems humiliating to me. We don't have the right to strut around, not until we've made something of ourselves.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 193
    • w:Marie Bashkirtseff was a woman-painter born in the Ukraine, who died very young; her Journal was published c. 1895
  • I sketched a young mother with her child at her breast, sitting in a smoky hut. If only I could someday paint what I felt then. A sweet woman, an image of charity. She was nursing her big, year-old bambino.. .And the woman gave her life and her youth and her power tot the child in utter simplicity, unaware that she was a heroine.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as quoted in: Witzling (1991, p. 193) and Delia Gaze (2001) Concise Dictionary of Women Artists, p. 489
  • I think I'm getting into the real mood and atmosphere of Worpswede now. What I used to call my Sunken Bell mood, the spell I was under when I first got here, was sweet, very sweet – but it was really only a dream, and one that couldn't last long in any sort of active life. Then came the reaction to it, and after that something truer – serious work and serious living for my art, a battle I must fight with all my strength. I am filled with the sun, every part of me, and with the breezy air, intoxicated with the moonlight on the bright snow.. .Nature was speaking with me and I listened to her, happy and vibrant. Life.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, pp. 193-194
  • Nature is supposed to become greater to me than people. It ought to speak louder from me. I should feel small in the face of nature's enormity. That is the way Mackensen [her teacher, painter in Worpswede] thinks it should be. That is the alpha and omega of all critique. What I should learn, he says, is a more devout representation of nature. It seems that I let my own insignificant person step to the forefront too much.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 194
  • I became aware of something today when I was with Fräulein Weshoff [German woman-sculptor, who married later the poet Rilke ]. I should like to have her as a friend. She is grand and splendid to look at – and that's the way she is as a person and as an artist. Today we raced down the hill on our little sleds. It was such fun.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 194
  • If I could really paint! A month ago I was so sure of what I wanted. Inside me I saw it out there, walked around with it like a queen, and was blissful. Now the veils have fallen again, gray veils, hiding the whole idea of me. I stand like a beggar at the door, shivering in the cold, pleading to be let in. It is hard to move patiently, step by step, when one is young and demanding.. .I walk along the boulevards [Paris] and crowds of people pass by and something inside me cries out, 'I still have such beautiful things before me. None of you, not one, has such things'. And then it cries, 'When will it come? Soon?'
    • excerpt of her Journal, Paris 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 195
  • I have been depressed for days. Profoundly sad and solemn. I think the time is coming for struggle and uncertainty. It comes into every serious and beautiful life. I knew all along that it had to come. I've been expecting it. I am not afraid of it. I know it will mature and help me develop. But everything seems so serious and so hard, serious and sad to me. I walk through this huge city [Paris]. I look into a thousand thousand eyes. But I almost never find a soul there.. .And beneath it all flows the Styx [the Seine], deep and slow, knowing nothing of these brooks and wells of ours. I am sad. And all around me ate the heavy, pregnant, perfumed breezes of spring..
    • excerpt of her Journal, Paris 1897; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 195
  • As I was painting today, some thoughts came to me and I want to write them down for people I love. I know that I shall not live very long. But I wonder, is that sad? Is a celebration more beautiful because it lasts longer? And my life is a celebration, a short, intense celebration. My powers of perception are becoming finer.. ..with almost every breeze I take, I get a new sense and understanding of the linden tree, of ripened wheat, of hay.. .I suck everything up into me. And if only now love would blossom for me, before I depart; and if I can paint three good pictures, then I shall go gladly, with flowers in my hair..
    • excerpt of her Journal (1897); as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 196
  • Someday I must be able to paint truly remarkable colors. Yesterday I held in my lap a wide, silver-gray satin ribbon, which I edged with two narrower black, patterned silk ribbons. And I placed on top of these a plump, bottle-green velvet bow. I'd like to be able to paint something one day in those colors..
    • excerpt of her Journal (1897); as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 196

1898[edit]

  • How happy I would be if I could give figurative expression to the unconscious feeling that often murmurs so softly and sweetly within me.
    • In her Diary (1898); as quoted in: Werner Haftmann (1966) An analysis of the artists and their work, p. 82
  • I lay under the buckthorn tree. My soul was enchanted. I looked up through its leaves. The sun was coloring them a briljant yellow. They stood out from their delicate red stems, laughing at the sky.
    And the sky was deep blue with one small cloud. And the blue was a glorious contrast to the yellow of the leaves. And the wind came and played with them, turning them over so that I could see their shiny upper surfaces. And the wind came down to me, too, bringing me armfuls of sweet fragrance.
    The buckthorn was in blossom and that was the prettiest thing about it. Its scenty filled the soft air and covered me in a dream, tenderly, ans sang to my soul a tale of times before I ever was, and of times when I shall be no more..
    • from her Journal, in Lilleon, June 1898; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 105
  • Recently I have felt just what the mood of colors means to me: it means that everything in this picture changes its local color according to the same principle and that thereby all muted tones blend in a unified relationship, one to the other.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede, 24 July 1898; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 197
  • I was reading about and looking at Mantegna [Italian early-Renaissance painter]. I can sense how good he is for me. His enormous plasticity - it has such powerful substance. That is just what is lacking in my things. I could do something about that if I could add his substantiality to the greatness of form I'm struggling for. At present I see before my eyes very simple and barely articulated things. My second major stumbling is my lack of intimacy. Mackensen's [her former teacher] way of portraying the people here is not great enough for me, too genre like. Whoever could, ought to capture them in runic script..
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1898; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 197
  • Today I saw an exhibition of old Japanese paintings and sculpture [in Paris]. I was seized by the great strangeness of these things. It makes our own art seem all the more conventional to me. Our art is very meager in expressing the emotions we have inside. Old Japanese art seems to have a better solution for that.. .We must put more weight on the fundamentals!! When I took my eyes from these pictures and began looking at the people around me, I suddenly saw that human being are more remarkable, much more striking and surprising than they have been painted. A sudden realization like that comes only at moments.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Paris, 1898; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 197
  • I must learn how to express the gentle vibration of things, their roughened textures, their intricacies. I have to find an expression for that in my drawing, too, in the way I sketched my nudes here in Paris, only more original, more subtly observed. The strange quality of expectation that hovers over muted things [skin, Otto's Otto Modersohn forehead, fabrics, flowers]; I must try to get hold of the great and simple beauty of all that. In general, I must strive for the utmost simplicity united with the most intimate power of observation. That's where greatness lies.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Paris, 1898; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, pp. 197-198
  • I want to go further and further. I can hardly wait until I am a real artist. And then I long so for life. I've only begun to get a little taste of it.
    • In her Journal-entry, December, 1898; as quoted in Modersohn-Becker P, Busch G, Reinken LV: Paula Modersohn-Becker, the Letters and Journals, Taplinger; New York 1983, p. 118

1899[edit]

  • I am constantly observing things and believe that I am coming closer to beauty. In the last few days I have discovered form and have been thinking much about it. Until now I've had no real feeling for the antique. I could find it very beautiful by itself. But I could never find any thread leading from it to modern art. Now I've found it, and that's what I believe is called progress.
    • excerpt of her Journal, 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 198
  • I feel an inner relationship which leads from the antique tot the Gothic, especially from the early ancient art, and from the Gothic to my own feeling for form. A great simplicity of form is something marvelous. As far back as I can remember, I have tried to put the simplicity of nature into the heads that I was painting or drawing. Now I have a real sense of being able to learn from the heads of ancient sculpture..
    • excerpt of her Journal, 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 198
  • The intensity with which a subject is grasped (still life's, portraits, or creations of the imagination) – that is what makes for beauty in art.
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 198
  • Last year I wrote: 'the intensity with which a subject is grasped, that is what makes for beauty in art'. Isn't it also true for love?
    • excerpt of her Journal, Worpswede 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991
  • To [aunt] Marie Hill,
    Dearest
    Why do you tempt me? I really cannot. It's impossible! Be happy? The only thought I have in my mind is to immerse myself in my art, to merge completely with it until I can begin to express what I really feel – and after that to be consumed even more by it. Even if I wanted to, I could not leave here [Worpswede].. .I want to live here. I want to 'live' – and develop further as a person and as an artist.. .Can you understand this? I think you can. And do you approve? I hope so. In any case, I can't do any different..
    • In a letter to her aunt Mary Hill, from Worpswede, June 1899; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 135
  • I really see nothing of other people. I'm trying to dig my way back again into my work. One absolutely has to dedicate oneself, every bit of oneself, to the one inescapable thing. That's the only way to get somewhere and to become something.
    • In a letter to her parents, Worpswede, 10 September 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 199
  • I've made use of the beautiful weather to sketch and paint outside. I had been staying away from color for such a long time that it had become something quite foreign to me. Working in color was always a great joy to me. And now it is a great joy again. Still, I have to battle with it, wrestle with it, with all my strength. And one must be victorious. But if it weren't for the fight, all the beauty of it wouldn't exist at all, would it? I'm writing this mostly for Mother who, I believe, thinks my whole life is one constant act of egoistic ecstasy. But devotion to art also involves something unselfish.
    • In a letter to her parents, from Worpswede, 10 September 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 199
  • I'm going through a strange period now. Maybe the most serious of all my short life. I can see that my goals are becoming more and more remote from those of the family, and that you and they will be less and less inclined to approve of them.. .And still I must go on. I must not retreat. I struggle forward, just as all of you do, but I'm doing it within my own mind, my own skin, and in the way I think is right. I'm little frightened by my loneliness in my unguarded hours. But personally those are the very hours that help me along toward my goal. You needn't show this letter to our parents.
    • In a letter to her sister Milly, 21 September 1899; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 199

1900 - 1905[edit]

  • My art is going well. I have a feeling of satisfaction about it. Afternoons I stroll around the city [Paris] taking a good look at everything and trying to absorb it all.. .I went back to the Notre Dame again. Such wonderful Gothic detailing, those monstrous gargoyles, each one with its own character and face.. .Directly behind Notre Dame, almost encircled by the Seine, lies the morgue. Day after day they fish corpses from the river here, people who don't want to get on living.
    • In a letter to her sister Milly, from Paris, 29 February 1900; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 200
  • ..to have all colors deeper, more intense; |I| get quite angry at this lightness..
    • quote from a letter to her husband Otto Modersohn from Paris, 29 February, 1900; as quoted in Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 31
    • as early as 1900 Paula Modersohn-Becker had written from Paris that she longed for stronger and deeper colors in her own work
  • As I was painting today, some thoughts came to me and I want to write them down for the people I love. I know that I shall not live very long. But I wonder, is that sad? Is a celebration more beautiful because it lasts longer? And my life is a celebration, a short, intense celebration.
    • In her Journal-entry, 26 July 1900; as quoted in Tromp M, Ravelli AC, Reitsma JB, Bonsel GJ, Mol BW: Increasing maternal age at first pregnancy planning: health outcomes and associated costs, in: 'J Epidemiol Community Health', Dec. 2010, p. 4
  • Please let your 'hot-blooded iconoclasm' slumber a bit longer, and for a while permit me simply to be your Madonna. It's meant to be for your own good, do you believe that? Keep your mind on art, our gracious muse, dear. Let us both plan to paint all this week. And then early Saturday I shall come to you.
    • In a letter to her husband Otto Modersohn, after 12 September 1900; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 200
  • Is it true that all I ever write you about is painting and nothing else? Isn't there love in my lines to you and between the lines, shining and glowing and quiet and loving, the way a woman should love and the way your woman loves you?
    • In a letter to her husband Otto Modersohn, from Berlin, 4 February 1901; as quoted in Voicing our visions, -Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 201
  • In the last few days I have been thinking very intensively about my art and I believe that things are progressing for me. I even think that I'm beginning to have a liaison with the sun. Not with the sun that divides everything up and puts shadows in everywhere and plucks the image into a thousand pieces, but with the sun that broods and makes things gray and heavy and combines them all in this gray heaviness so that they become one. I'm thinking about all of that very much and it lives within me besides my great love. A time has come when I think that I shall again be able to say something [in her painting] one day; I am again devout and full of expectation..
    • In a letter to her friend, the sculptress Clara Rilke-Westhoff, from Worpswede, 13 May 1901; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 201
  • Isn't love thousandfold? Isn't it like the sun that shines on everything? Must love be stingy? Must love give everything to one person and take from the others.. .I don't know much about the two of you [ Rilke and Clara ]; but it seems to me that you have shed too much of your old self and spread it out like a cloak so that your king [Rilke] can walk on it. I wish for your sake and for the world and for art [Clara is sculptress] and also for my sake that you would wear your own golden cape again..
    • In a letter to her friend, the sculptress Clara Rilke-Westhoff, from Worpswede, 13 May 1901; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 202
  • In my first year of marriage I have often wept and the tears fall often as they did in my childhood - in large drops. They occur when I hear music and when I see beautiful things which move me. In the last analysis, I live alone just as much as I did in my childhood. This aloneness makes me sometimes sad and sometimes happy. I believe it deepens one's life. One lives less according to outward appearances.. .One lives inwardly.
  • Someday I must be able to paint truly remarkable colors. Yesterday I held in my lap a wide, silver-gray satin ribbon which I edged with two narrower black, patterned silk ribbons. And I placed on top of these a plump, bottle-green velvet bow. I'd like to be able to paint something one day in those colors.
    • ‎note in her Journal, 3 June, 1902; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker, the Letters and Journals, ed. Günter Busch and ‎Liselotte von Reinken (1998), p. 278
  • ..Mother, the dawn has broken in me and I can feel the day approaching. I'm going to become somebody. If only I had been able to show Father that my life has not been fishing in troubled waters, pointless; if only I had been able to repay him for the part of himself that he planted in me! I feel that the time is soon coming when I no longer have to be ashamed and remain silent, but when I feel with pride that I am a painter..
    • In a letter to her mother, from Worpswede, 6 July 1902; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 202
  • I believe that one should not think so much about nature when painting, at least not during the conception of the picture. Make the color sketch exactly as one has felt something in nature. But my personal feeling is the main thing. Once I have established it, lucid in tone and color, I must bring in from nature the things that make my painting seem natural, so that a layman will only think that 1 have painted it from nature.
    • quote from her Diaries, 1 October, 1902; as cited in Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 31
  • I feel a burning desire to become grand in simplicity.
    • note in her Journal, April 1903; as quoted in Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 30
  • Today I was on the Rue Laffette where the art dealers are. There is so much of interest to see here. You know the things that you call 'the artistic' in art. The French possess to a high degree this sense of not having to bring everything to a pitch of perfection. The mobility in their nature really comes to their aid there. We Germans always obediently paint our pictures from top till bottom, and are much to ponderous to do the little oil-sketches and improvisations which so often say more than a finished painting.
    • In a letter to her husband Otto Modersohn, from Boulevard Raspail 203, Paris, 14 February 1903; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 292
  • There are great many Rembrandts here [in Paris]. Even if they are yellow with varnish, I can still learn so much from them, the wrinkled intricacy of things, life itself. There is a little thing here by him.. ..It is of a women in bed, nude. But the way it's painted, the way the cushions are painted, their shapes, with all those details of lacework, the whole thing is bewitching.
    • In a letter to her husband Otto Modersohn, from Boulevard Raspail 203, Paris, 18 February 1903; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 297
  • Mornings I am painting Clara Rilke in a white dress. It's to be her head and part of a hand holding a red rose. She looks very beautiful that way, and I hope that I am getting a little of her into my portrait. Her little girl, Ruth is playing next to us. She is a cuddly little creature. I'm happy that I can get together frequently with Clara Rilke this way. In spite of everything she is still, of all my friends, the one I care about the most. She was living very close to Rodin for about a month.. .As Rodin's secretary Rilke [Clara's husband] is gradually meeting the intelligentsia of Europe.
    Otto paints and paints and paints..
    • In a letter to her mother, from Worpswede, 26 November 1905; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 375

1906 + 1907[edit]

  • Dear Rainer Maria Rilke
    I thank you for saying that you rather like my painting of 'the little child'.. .You have brought me the first touch of Paris with this phrase of yours about 'liking and approving', and that alone is a great deal.. .Will I be seeing you here [in Worpswede] before I leave? I really hope not. The ground is burning a little beneath my feet.. . And now, I don't even know how I should sign my name. I'm not Modersohn, but I'm no longer Paula Becker anymore either [because she was married with Otto Modersohn, but is now leaving him]. I am Me, and I hope to become Me more and more. That is surely the goal of all our struggles.. .I am now leaving Friday night and shal arrive in Paris on Saturday. Write a line to 29 Rue Cassette, where I plan to stay..
    • quote in a letter from Worpswede, 17 February, 1906 to Rainer Maria Rilke in Paris; as quoted in Modersohn-Becker P, Busch G, Reinken LV: Paula Modersohn-Becker, the Letters and Journals, Taplinger; New York 1983, p. 383-84
  • ..you [Otto] know me well enough to know that I am not bad and heartless. It just happen to be a 'Sturm und Drang' period which I have to get through, and there is no way to avoid hurting the people closest to me. It hurts me to cause you all this pain and suffering. Believe me when I say it is not easy for me either. But I must fight it through, to one exit or another – It has begun to be really beautiful here.. .I've seen wonderful Courbet's. I am sorry that he is now the latest mode. I think he is greater than either Manet or Monet. There was a colossal still life [of Courbet] with hollyhocks, in every conceivable colour, with a female figure in it. It was magnificently painted.. .Stay close to Elsbeth and to your art..
    • In a letter from Paris, 9 April 1906, to Otto Modersohn in Worpswede; as quoted in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 389
  • Night and day I've been most intensely thinking about my painting, and I have been more or less satisfied with everything I've done. I'm slacking a little now, not working as much, and no longer so satisfied. But all in all, I still have a loftier and happier perspective on my art than I did in Worpswede. But it does demand a very, very great deal of me – working and sleeping in the same room with my paintings is a delight.. .When I wake up in the middle of the night, I jump out of bed and look at my work. And in the morning it's the first thing I see..
    • In a letter from Paris, 15 May 1906 to Otto Modersohn in Worpswede; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 204
  • The time is getting closer for you to be coming [to Paula, in Paris]. Now I must ask you for your sake and mine, please spare both of us this time of trial. Let me go, Otto Otto Modersohn. I do not want you as my husband.. ..accept this fact; don't torture yourself any longer.
    • Quote in ‎her Journal, Paris, 3 September, 1906; as quoted in Günter Busch, ‎Liselotte von Reinken (1998) Paula Modersohn-Becker, the Letters and Journals p. 278; as quoted in Stephanie D'Alessandro, ‎Milwaukee Art Museum (2003) German Expressionist Prints, p. 198
  • This past summer I realized that I am not the sort of woman to stand alone in life. Apart from the eternal worries about money, it is precisely the freedom I have had which was able to lure me away from myself. I would so much like to get to the point where I can create something that is me. It is up to the future to determine for us whether I'm acting bravely or not. The main thing now is peace and quiet for my work, and I have that most of all when I am at Otto Modersohn's side.
    • In a letter to her friend Clara Rilke-Westhoff, 17 November 1906; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 206
  • I cannot come back to you. Not yet.. .I do not yet want to have a child by you. I must wait, if it comes again, or if something else comes out of it..
    • quote in a letter from Paris, 1906, to Otto in Worpswede; as quoted in Tromp M, Ravelli AC, Reitsma JB, Bonsel GJ, Mol BW: Increasing maternal age at first pregnancy planning: health outcomes and associated costs. In 'J. Epidemiol Community Health', Dec. 2010, p. 4
  • The review was more a satisfaction to me than a joy. Joy, overpoweringly beautiful moments, comes to an artist without other noticing. The same is true for moments of sadness. That's why it is true that artists live mostly in solitude.. .Otto [Modersohn] and I shall be coming home [ Worpswede ] again in the spring. That man is touching in his love. We are going to try to buy the Brünjes place in order to make our lives together freer and more open.. .If the dear Lord will allow me once again to create something beautiful, then I shall be happy and satisfied; if only I have a place where I can work in peace. I will be grateful for the portion of love I've received. If one can remain healthy and not die too young..
    • In a letter from Paris, 18 November 1906, to her sister Milly; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 206
  • What I want to produce is something compelling, something full, an excitement and intoxication of color – something powerful. The paintings I did in Paris are too cool, too solitary and empty. They are the reaction to a restless and superficial period in my life and seem to strain for a simple, grand effect. I wanted to conquer Impressionism by trying to forget it. What happened was that it conquered me. We must work with digested and assimilated Impressionism..
    • In a letter to Bernhard Hoetger, from Paris, Summer 1907; as quoted in Voicing our visions, – Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 207
  • My mind has been so much occupied these days by the thought of Cézanne, of how he has been one of the three or four powerful artists who have affected me like a thunderstorm, like some great event. Do you still remember what we saw at Vollard [art-seller in Paris who showed Cézanne's works frequently in his gallery] in 1900? And then, during the final days of my last stay in Paris, those truly astonishing early paintings of his at the Galerie Pellerin. Tell your husband he should see the things there.. .If it were not absolutely necessary [Paula was pregnant] for me to be here right now [Germany], nothing could keep me away from Paris.
    • In a letter from Worpswede, 21 October, 1907, to her friend Clara Rilke-Westhoff; as quoted in Voicing our visions, - Writings by women artists; ed. Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 208
    • October 1907 Rilke started to write his famous series 'Letters on Cézanne' to his wife Clara Rilke-Westhoff
  • I would like to go to Paris for a week. Fifty-six Cezannes are being shown there!
    • In a letter to her mother, End of October 1907; as quoted in: Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 30
  • Now it's almost as beautiful as Christmas [then Paula suddenly fell to the floor].. ..What a pity! [her last words].
    • as quoted in: Paula Modersohn-Becker, the challenges of pregnancy and the weight of tradition, by Giorgina B. Piccoli and Scott L. Karakas; published in: 'Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine', 6 June 2011, p. 1; as quoted in: M. Bohlmann-Modersohn: Paula Modersohn-Becker: eine Biographie mit Briefen, Albrecht Knaus; Berlin 1995, p. 280
    • Paula had given birth to her (first) child, Mathilde, on 2 November 1907. Her sudden death, on 21 November 1907, due to thromboembolism, occurred almost immediately after she was allowed to leave her bed for the first time following her delivery; her biographers recount that she combed her hair, adorned it with red roses received as presents, and slowly walked to the living room, where her daughter was in her crib. Paula took the young daughter Mathilde (later called Tille) in her arms and fell down, suddenly.

undated quotes[edit]

  • We cleave to the past too much in Germany. All of our German art is too bogged down in the conventional.. .I think more highly of a free person who consciously puts convention aside.
    • As quoted in: Norbert Wolf, ‎Uta Grosenick (2004) Expressionism, p. 74
  • I want to give colors intoxication, fullness, excitement, power. By trying to forget Impressionism, I wanted to conquer it. In the process I was conquered. We must work with assimilated, digested Impressionism.
    • As quoted in: Ingo F. Walther (2000) Art of the 20th Century. Part 1, p. 49

Quotes about Paula Modersohn-Becker[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes about Paula Modersohn-Becker
  • [Paula saw Cezanne] as a big brother.. ..an unexpected confirmation of her own artistic quest.
    • Quote of Clara Rilke-Westhoff; as cited in Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, by Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 30
    • In 1900, during her initial stay in Paris, Paula saw paintings of Paul Cezanne for the first time in her life, when she and Clara Westhoff visited together Vollard's gallery
  • What Paula is doing with her art now does not please me nearly as it used to. She will not accept any advice – it is very foolish and a pity. A huge squandering of her powers.. .She paints life-size nudes, which she can't do, no more than she can paint life-size heads. And in this.. ..she is just as addicted as I used to be about my fairy-tale drawings.. .A great gift for color – but unpainterly and harsh, particularly in her completed figures. She admires primitive pictures, which is very bad for her – she should be looking for artistic paintings. She wants to unite color and form – out of the question, the way she does it. She doesn't like to restrain form – a great mistake..
    • Quote of Otto Modersohn, in his Journal 1903-1906, in Worpswede, 11 December 1905; as cited in Paula Modersohn-Becker – The Letters and Journals, ed: Günther Busch & Lotten von Reinken; (transl, A. Wensinger & C. Hoey; Taplinger); Publishing Company, New York, 1983, p. 377
    • Paula and Otto lived together in Worpswede, North-Germany and had both their own studio in the house
  • For that is what you understood: ripe fruits. You set them before the canvas, in white bowls, and weighed out each one's heaviness with your colors. Women too, you saw, were fruits; and children, molded from inside, into the shapes of their existence. And at last you saw yourself as a fruit, you stepped out of your clothes and brought your naked body before the mirror, you let yourself inside down to your gaze; which stayed in front, immense, and didn't say: 'I am that; no: this is. 'So free of curiosity your gaze had become, so unpossessive, of such true poverty, it had no desire even for your yourself; it wanted nothing: holy.
    • Quote of Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Requiem for a Friend, (translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell)
    • Rilke wrote 'Requiem For a Friend' as a tribute to Paula Modersohn-Becker, who suddenly died eighteen days after giving birth to her first child. Rilke wrote it over two nights, 31 Oct. + 1 Nov. 1908), in Paris, almost a full year after hearing the news of Paula's parting. It was published in 1909
  • 'My feelings can keep developing only in an admiring contemplation of nature,' said Mackensen, the actual founder and leading mind of the [Worpswede artist]-group. In 1897 Paula Becker chose him as her mentor. From her letters and diaries, we learn how deeply she loved the Worpswede countryside, the vast sky, the dark moor, the birch trees by shiny ditches of water, the moor cabins, and the people, marked by living in this world. But few of her paintings are pure landscapes, unlike the genuine Worpsweders [artists made them].
    • In: Expressionism, a German intuition, 1905-1920, Neugroschel, Joachim; Vogt, Paul; Keller, Horst; Urban, Martin; Dube, Wolf Dieter; (transl. Joachim Neugroschel); publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1980, p. 30
  • Modersohn-Becker's ambition might have been called masculine in earlier times. Going by the number of self-portraits she painted, she certainly had a healthy ego (which Otto complained about). The grave demeanor and large dark eyes of Coptic portraits are especially evident in her self-portraits and paintings of her sister Herma. It is thought that she is the first woman to paint a full-length nude self-portrait and also to paint herself pregnant, and nude, which she did twice - before she was actually expecting.
  • During her very short life-time, Paula Modersohn-Becker not only enjoyed being with children and even playing child (in a 1903 letter to her husband, she said she looked forward to playing again in the hay with him and Elsbeth), but she, also, truly desired a child of her own. In her diary notation of October 22, 1901, a few months after her marriage, she wrote that three young women in Worpswede were expecting children around Christmas, but that she was not yet ripe and would have to wait a little while. On March 10, 1903, in a letter to her husband from Paris, she wrote that as she fell asleep, she would think lovingly of small children, and that she now felt like a woman, full of expectations, which were quieter and more serious than those she had had when she was a girl. Her longing for a child was so great that in 1906, in her 'Self-Portrait on the Sixth Anniversary of her Wedding', she even portrayed herself as pregnant! Her face is tinged with sadness, she stands naked, her arms encircling her pregnant stomach.

External links[edit]

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