Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943) a hugely talented Berlin-born artist who, at the age of twenty-six and five months pregnant, was murdered at Auschwitz. Her main body of work, a sequence of nearly 800 gouache images entitled "Leben? Oder Theater? (Life? Or Theatre?)", created while seeking refuge in the South of France, is an ambitious fictive autobiography which deploys both images and text, and a wide range of musical, literary and cinematic references. The narrative, informed by Salomon’s experiences as an assimilated German-Jewish woman, depicts a life lived in the shadow of Nazi persecution and a family history of suicide, but also reveals moments of intense happiness and hope. Challenging the artistic conventions of Salomon’s time, it remains almost impossible to categorize. This illustrated lecture by London-based art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen will explore the multiple aspects of this sophisticated, complex and haunting work and reflect on its relevance for our own time.
Monica Bohm-Duchen is an independent writer, lecturer and exhibition organizer. She was co-curator of "Life? Or Theater? The Work of Charlotte Salomon", shown at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 1998. She is the author of "Art and the Second World War" and co-edited an anthology of critical essays entitled "Charlotte Salomon: Gender, Trauma, Creativity", published by Cornell University Press in 2006. She is the founding director of Insiders/Outsiders, an ongoing celebration of the contributions of refugees from Nazi Europe to British culture and beyond. Ms. Bohm-Duchen has taught at Birkbeck, University of London and at New York University London.