Anita Ree painted this self-portrait in 1910. The photograph does not do justice to the beautiful palette of the artist. Discounting its erotic nature (as google images does by cropping it) it is a masterpiece, though there is no reason to discount it. The sweetness of Ree’s expression is marvellous. There is a beauty of form too. And yet. . .the backdrop of prickly pears, a watery sweet fruit that if not handled properly can indeed prickle, makes a more provocative theme.
Anita Ree painted this self-portrait in 1929. Gone is the delicate palette and in its place a stark and difficult look, and on her face, the tragedy that had become her life.
Four years later, Anita Ree committed suicide. She was 48 years old.
These paintings, and a few others, are part of the collection in the Hamburg city art gallery, where I saw them in summer 2017. They are among the most memorable works of my European tour. I found them very upsetting.
It is not surprising that she was unknown to me. Though baptised in the Lutheran faith as was common by Jewish Germans at that time, she was denounced by the Nazis for her Jewishness. Lutheranism didn’t save her. Her social life became difficult, and then impossible. After the Nazis took power in 1933, she killed herself. Her paintings were labelled degenerate, removed from galleries where they were displayed and mostly destroyed. Murals suffered the same fate.
The paintings in the Hamburg gallery were saved by a groundskeeper, who hid them in his apartment until after the war. Other works were in private hands enabling a retrospective that is presently (January 2018) at the gallery. http://www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de/en/exhibitions/anita-ree
Among the paintings on display:
*This is the first of a series of posts rising out of my European trip in 2017. They are selfish in a way – what grabbed me, upset me, moved me. . .and who am I? Nobody, that’s who. But maybe you too, dear reader, will be prompted by my interests and enjoy some of them.
Thanks for reading this one.