Making Modernism ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Nov 12, 2022 - Feb 12, 2023


This significant exhibition is comprised of work by seven female artists who were active in Germany in the early twentieth century. The focus is on Paula Modersohn-Becker, Käthe Kollwitz, Gabriele Münter and Marianne Werefkin, but Erma Bossi, Ottilie Reylaender and Jacoba van Heemskerck are also represented. The exhibition is arranged thematically and is divided into five sections. Gallery one Ourselves and Others introduces the artists with portraits and a look at their milieu. The next rooms, The Century of the Child and Intimacy, present the artists' reflections on their personal realities. Their views of childhood eschew idealisation and are more in line with contemporary hypotheses such as those of Freud and Ellen Key. Similarly, the works in Gallery three, Intimacy, mirror the evolving conceptions of the role and agency of women. The intimate and erotic work is assured and confidently challenging. The next two galleries City, Town and Country and 'Still Lives' show the artists engaging the external world and evaluating their relationship with it. In this section we were particularly struck by Marianne Werefkin's The Return (1909) and her Circus – Before the Show (1908-10). Indeed, throughout the exhibition, the work of Werefkin and Käthe Kollwitz stood out for us, but everyone will find their own favourites. This is an exhibition that offers a rare opportunity to rediscover the important contributions made by these ground-breaking women artists.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Marianne Werefkin, Circus – Before the Show, 1908-10. Tempera on cardboard. 53 x 88.5 cm. Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren. Photo: © Peter Hinschlaeger

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