Paula Modersohn- Becker is a German female painter who is one of the most important painters of early Expressionism.
She is best-known as the first female painter who painted female nudes. At the start of the 20th century, Paula introduced the world to Modernism together with her fellow colleges Matisse, Rodin, Cezanne, and Picasso. Her artworks include self-portraits, landscapes, mothers and children, and still life.
Paula was born in Dresden in an aristocratic family which provided their children an intellectual environment. In 1888, they moved to Bremen, and the same year Paula visited her aunt in London where she received her first drawing lessons at St John’s Wood Art School.
When she returned to Bremen, Paula took a private lesson in painting because she was inspired by the works of the artists’ circle of Worpswede. In 1896, Paula participated in a course for painting which offered art lessons for women and was sponsored by the “Verein der Berliner Kunstlerinnen.”
The biggest breakthrough in her career was yet to come. In 1900, she was invited by her friend, Clara Westhoff, to study in Paris. Becker met her husband, Otto Modersohn, the same year at the great Centennial Exhibition. They lived mostly apart until 1907 when she returned to her husband and gave birth to her daughter Mathilde.
The same month, Paula complained of severe leg pain, and after 18 days Becker died from an embolism in her leg when she was 31 years old. After her death, her diaries were published during the 1920s.
At the age of 22, she became a close friend of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke who wrote the renowned poem “Requiem for a Friend” in her honor. Becker influenced some of Picasso’s painting when she adopted the techniques of Fauvism. However, her painting was realistic and naturalistic with simple and recognizable forms.
The art historian Diane Radycki made a book with the paintings and drawings of Paula called ” Paula Modersohn-Becker: The First Modern Woman Artist” where she inserted letters from Becker’s journal. Paula’s house in Bremen became a private art museum and gallery in 2007. She set up her first studio in this house and lived there until she was 23 years old. The house was restored in 2003 by Heinz and Betty Thies in time for the 100th anniversary of Paula’s death. Her grave is preserved at the Worpswede Cemetery in Bremen.