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Paula Modersohn-Becker - Radycki, Diane - Yale University Press
Art and Architecture

Paula Modersohn-Becker

The First Modern Woman Artist

  • Diane Radycki
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Considered one of the most important of the early German modernists, the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907) challenged traditional representations of the female body in art. She was the first modern woman artist to paint herself nude, as well as mothers and children nude. She also created the first self-portrait while pregnant in the history of art. Modersohn-Becker painted the life she was living as a woman and artist and led the way for generations of women artists. Tragically, her life and career were cut short at age thirty-one, following complications from childbirth.

Diane Radycki examines the artist’s fascinating biography, highlighting her friendships with poet Rainer Maria Rilke and sculptor Clara Rilke-Westhoff as well as her personal anguish, including years in an unconsummated marriage, a disappointing affair, and irresolution about motherhood. Radycki also details the genres of Modersohn-Becker’s work: figure (especially nudes), still life, and landscape; and the reception of her work following her death. This new book is an authoritative source on Modersohn-Becker, who Radycki convincingly portrays as the first significant woman artist in the history of modernism.

Diane Radycki is associate professor of art history at Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She served as editor and translator of The Letters and Journals of Paula Modersohn-Becker.

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