Art and Artists

Observations and appraisals of the visual arts from the perspective of Jewish civilization.
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Life or Theatre?: The works by Charlotte Salomon

Charlotte Salomon’s life circumstances could be described as dramatic, tragic and heroic.  As a German-Jewish artist, she grew up in privileged in Berlin studying art and listening to opera, but suffered greatly as a result of her mother’s early death.Charlotte Salomon
On the brink of WWII, Charlotte and her father and stepmother left Germany for southern France. It was there that Charlotte witnessed the suicide of her grandmother and where the buried secrets of her family history, and her mother’s suicide, were finally revealed to her. It was at this point that Charlotte, in her early 20s, decided to paint about her life, marry and start a family.  In a time frame of two years, between 1941 and 1943, and living under enormous constraints of wartime, Charlotte, with a feverish intensity, created an extraordinary work: a compilation of over 1,000 gouache paintings in a form of a ‘play,’ with characters based upon her own life and dreams.

charlotte Salomon Life or Theatre? is a visual autobiography and narrative that is infused with hope, joy and sorrow. It is a personal, heroic, and historical work because it uniquely chronicles one woman’s life experiences during the Nazi occupation. Luckily, Charlotte gave her paintings to the village doctor prior to her deportation to Auschwitz, who preserved them, and later presented them to Charlotte’s parents who survived incarceration. Her works are now in the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam. While Charlotte did not survive, her works continue to live in their raw and poetic beauty.

For more information see:
Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam. Paintings can be viewed on the museum’s web site:

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