Conflict as a Woman Artist: Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portraits

Noémi Mercier

Women artists faced a double bind at the turn of the twentieth-century. Avant-garde movements were renouncing academic art institutions and creating independent societies and parallel exhibition outlets. The avant-garde was turning away from classicism and traditional fields such as history painting, and, in turn, glorifying direct experience and genres such as portraiture, landscapes and still-lifes. While these transformations, coupled with the birth of the women’s movement, allowed women greater access to professional careers as artists, rigid social roles and notions of femininity consolidated in late nineteenth-century bourgeois society increasingly restricted women to the domestic sphere and posited the categories ‘woman’ and ‘artist’ as mutually exclusive [1]. The avant-garde artist had become the “male possessor of a uniquely creative identity,” naturally endowed with such prerequisites as individuality, originality and autonomy [2].

Women artists’ marginal and conflicted positions thus had to be carefully and constantly negotiated. How were those boundaries reconciled or trespassed in their work, particularly in their self-portraits? The process of constructing their own image as artists is an especially productive site for investigating the ways they grappled with tensions inherent to their identity at a time when dominant ideologies of essential femininity competed with new potentials for women’s emancipation. According to Borzello, it is precisely in the decades preceding the First World War that the conflict between women’s roles started to find an open expression in female self-portraits [3]. Self-portraiture is all the more relevant given the ubiquitous presence of women as signs, rather than as producers of signs, in the history of art [4]. The challenge is twofold for the female artist who must (1) present herself as a subject while (2) using the image of woman—the very symbol that has historically functioned to deny her subjecthood in dominant discourses. In other words, self-portraits can help us understand “how women do speak in a context where they are chiefly spoken” [5].

German artist, Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907), is a fascinating example of a woman struggling to construct her own image in early twentieth-century Europe. During her short career of barely ten years, she produced about 1000 drawings and more than 400 paintings and studies, including a series of self-portraits [6].  She was an independent young woman determined to achieve recognition as a painter while juggling familial pressures and domestic obligations. Her letters and journals, which trace her lifelong efforts to reconcile the roles of woman, daughter, wife and artist, provide enlightening clues to understanding her self-portraits. My goal is not to pinpoint the chronological events of her life on specific self-portraits, but rather to present these works as a woman’s pictorial interpretation of a search for an identity marked by persistent ambivalence. I am interested in the “alien accents” in Paula Modersohn-Becker’s works – instances of the “double-voice discourse” in women’s cultural production which embody “both the social, literary, and artistic heritages of the dominant group and their own muted or inflected position within it” [7].

Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Life: An Overview

Born on February 8, 1876, Paula Modersohn-Becker grew up in a cultured and intellectual environment [8]. At sixteen years of age, she moved in with relatives near London to attend a professional art school. Her father insisted that she complete a teacher’s training program to secure a more reliable means of supporting herself. From 1896 to 1898, her parents reluctantly endorsed her studies at the Berlin School for Women Artists. At the end of the course, she settled in Worpswede, where she rented a studio and took classes with a local painter. There, she met the man she would marry in 1901 – the painter and widower, Otto Modersohn [9].

The artists of Worpswede were joined by an anti-academic stance in opposition to the rigidity of the German art education system. Modersohn-Becker and two other female artists had their own studios in the colony. They worked and exhibited alongside their male peers and enjoyed relative social freedom. But although Modersohn-Becker found a congenial environment in Worpswede to pursue her artistic career, Modersohn-Becker gained scarce recognition from her peers. Her husband deplored in his journal in 1902: “No one understands her – no one […] No one ever asks about her work […] The fact that she is somebody and is accomplishing something, no one thinks about that” [10]. The first public showing of her works, in late 1899, was judged harshly by a critic who strongly objected to the inclusion of three unknown women in the exhibition [11]. Her ambition also irritated Otto Modersohn, who, although generally supportive and genuinely admiring of her talent, at times felt sorely neglected by his wife. The following diary entry reveals his sentiments: “Unfortunately, Paula is also very much infected by these modern notions. She is also quite accomplished in the realm of egotism” [12].

Modersohn-Becker felt disenchanted early on about the promise of companionship in marriage. She confided in her journal in 1902: “In the first year of my marriage I have cried a great deal… My experience tells me that marriage does not make one happier. It takes away the illusion that had sustained a deep belief in the possibility of a kindred soul” [13]. The “spell” of Worpswede soon faded away. Her letters and diaries repeatedly refer to her feelings of frustration and alienation within the confined, “sensitive cocoons” of the colony. “I believe that I’ll grow away from here. Those with whom I can stand to speak about things close to my heart and feelings are becoming fewer and fewer” [14], she wrote to her parents only a few months after settling there.

Modersohn-Becker’s need for self-fulfilment, her longing for an “outer world,” an “external, active life,” and her insistence on the solitude required by true art prompted her to leave her domestic obligations behind and head to Paris for several months in 1900, 1903, 1905. She finally settled there in 1906 up until her death in 1907. In Paris, Modersohn-Becker painted, took art classes, attended the Exposition Universelle, spent time in museums and galleries and visited the studios of artists who impressed her. Her activities were audacious for a young woman of that time [15].

Modersohn-Becker was remarkably productive during the last two years of her life, a time also marked by an important personal crisis. When she left for Paris in February 1906, she firmly intended to separate from her husband, despite the humiliation of constantly having to ask him for money. Her friends and relatives’ incomprehension of her unconventional behaviour was particularly pronounced during this period. Her family supported Otto’s desperate attempts at reconciliation. They saw him as a martyr falling victim to Paula’s selfish ambition [16]. Her pleas for indulgence were equalled only by her determination to live on her own terms. She wrote to her mother in September 1906: “Forgive the troubles I am causing all of you. I cannot do otherwise […] Do not take any steps; you can no longer stop me from what I am doing” [17]. Paula eventually agreed to have Otto join her in Paris in the autumn of 1906 for one last attempt at a life together. Yet in September, she asked him not to come. Insisting on her need to pursue her goals alone, she changed her mind again only a week later. They spent the winter together in the French capital before returning to Worpswede. In early November 1907, Modersohn-Becker, then aged thirty-one, gave birth to a daughter. Soon after giving birth, on 20 November 1907, she suffered an embolism and a fatal heart attack.

The Self-Portraits

Paula Modersohn-Becker is often considered a precursor of German Expressionism, although her oeuvre can more accurately be described as a personal synthesis of Post-Impressionist styles. In Paris she became familiar with the work of Gauguin, the Nabis, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Rousseau and Matisse. Her self-portraits are a testament to her exploration of a wide range of styles and a gradual simplification of form. Through subtle contrasts, they formulate Modersohn-Becker’s process of forging an identity for herself as a woman and artist. Modersohn-Becker integrates conflicting positions into a whole, which, in the end, reveals, rather than masks, its contradictions.

Modersohn-Becker uses none of the motifs typical of male self-portraiture in the early twentieth-century (figs. 1-3) [18]. She never appears with any of the tools of the artist or in her studio. She is not positioning herself as a “special creative individual,” nor does she emphasise the distinction of her social class or the refinement (or marginality) of her dress and demeanour. She is no more interested in embellishing her physical appearance than in rendering it exactly, and in some instances she looks strikingly different from one self-portrait to another. She often painted herself in a full frontal position with her head slightly tilted. Her head occupies a central position above an equally weighty upper body. Her figure collides with the picture frame or seems to spill over it, giving her a strong physical presence, a sense of immediacy and involvement [19]. In Self-Portrait with Lemon (1906-07), the harsh features of her firmly contoured face rest upon a “columnar neck” [20], while in Self-Portrait with Camellia Branch (1907, fig. 1), her well delineated, almost square-shaped torso has a stoic solidity.

While these elements point to the artist’s affirmation as a subject, this assertiveness is counterbalanced by a sense of remoteness and tentativeness, notably in the searching gaze she turns on herself. In almost all of her self-portraits, she stares at herself with dark, unusually large eyes [21]. Her gaze is hypnotic yet introspective and distant. In Self-Portrait with Lemon, it seems at once detached and wary. There is a hint of anxiety in the absent stare of her Self-Portrait of 1903 (fig. 2) where she seems appears mysterious and lost in thought. The green, heavily scratched surface of her dress dissolves into the similar, crude texture of the background. She also seems strangely aloof in Self-Portrait with Camellia Branch. The hand holding the plant is unfinished, lost against a background of earth tones. InSelf-Portrait with Hand on Chin (1906, fig. 3), her eyes have a quizzical, tentative expression while her hand probes her chin in a gesture of uncertainty or interrogation – “unlike the withered, supportive hands of her peasants” [22] In the end, she loses part of her individuality in the stark physicality and bold simplification of her own form, especially in her late self-portraits. She has become monumental, impersonal and akin to the Roman Egyptian mummy portraits she admired in the Louvre (fig. 4) [23].

Instead of a coherent advertisement of her status as an artist (significantly, only the titles of these works indicate that they are portraits of the artist), we see the wavering gaze of self-scrutiny of a woman obsessed with the idea of “becoming somebody” and the wish to “create something that is [her]” [24]. She insisted in a letter to her mother in 1899: “I have such a firm desire and determination to make something of myself, something that won’t have to be afraid of the sunshine […] To realize that the people closest to us disapprove of our actions is the source of great sadness. But we must remain ourselves, we must” [25]. Alone in Paris in the spring of 1906, she exulted: “I am becoming somebody – I’m living the most intensely happy period of my life” [26]. Only a few weeks earlier she had written to Otto: “I feel so insecure about myself since I have abandoned everything that was secure in me and around me” [27]. As she hovered between a decisive commitment to her ideals and bouts of profound insecurity, her self-portraits seem to express the question recorded in her journal in February 1906, just after her separation from her husband: “ [ I ] am standing between my old life and my new life. I wonder what the new one will be like. And I wonder what will become of me in my new life?” [28]. 


Self-Portrait on her Sixth Wedding Day (1906, fig. 5) is another moving portrait of Paula Modersohn-Becker that considers her self-image and future, as both a woman and an artist. In the midst of an existential crisis during her last stay in Paris, she paints herself pregnant at a time when, in fact, she was not pregnant. She inscribed the canvas with these words: “I painted this at age thirty on my sixth wedding day. P.B..” [29]. This age had a special significance for her. In this painting, she confronts herself as a wife, an expectant mother, and the age she had set as her deadline to dedicate herself fully to painting [30]. She seems to pause at the crossroads in this triangle of potential roles. It is one of the only paintings where she appears almost in full-length. Standing upright and dignified, she looks pensively at her naked upper body, one arm gently supporting her pregnant belly, the other resting upon it. She examines this fantasised self-image with the detached and questioning expression of an observer. As Frances Borzello points out, she is “introducing ambivalence in the mother and child self-portrait popularised in the eighteenth-century” [31].

Her writings strongly echo this ambivalence towards motherhood. It often appears in her writings as an awe-inspiring mystery [32], and, at other times, as a woman’s “single true purpose” [33]. While she had categorically rejected motherhood in the spring of 1906, she changed her mind in September of that year, only six days after her ultimate break-up letter to Otto: “Also my wish not to have a child by you was only for the moment […] If you have not completely given up on me, then come here soon so that we can try to find one another again. The sudden shift in the way I feel will seem strange to you. Poor little creature that I am, I can’t tell which path is the right one for me” [34]. But six months after spreading the “happy news” of her own pregnancy, she wrote to her sister: “[…] Don’t ever write me another postcard with words like ‘diapers’, or ‘blessed event’. You know me well enough to realize that I’m the type who prefers to keep the fact that I’m concerned with diapers away from other people” [35].

A consideration of Modersohn-Becker’s other images of maternity can shed further light on her interpretation of the theme in Self-Portrait on her Sixth Wedding Day. Her late paintings of nursing mothers – naked, monumental, sensuous and enduring – echo the heroic life-giving force she described in her diary in 1898: “The woman gave her life and her youth and her power to the child in utter simplicity, unaware that she was a heroine” [36]. They are images of “archetypal fertility” [37]. TheKneeling Mother and Child (1907, fig. 6), for example, look like sacred beings in a ritualistic setting: the mother ceremoniously presents her baby, kneeling on a white circle surrounded by orange fruit. They are set against a simplified background of foliate icons of nature. In Reclining Mother and Child (1906, fig. 7), anonymous, decontextualised figures lie naked in an instinctive embrace.

Perry assimilates those images of maternity adorned with plants and tropical fruit to the “earth mother” appearing in the anthropological and scientific literature at the time, a “figure whose role in life was essentially that of childbearing” [38]. Nochlin likewise identifies those elemental mother-child pairs with theories popular at the turn of the twentieth-century, which reduced women to their biological dimension and tied maternity to a primitive stage of human evolution. Modersohn-Becker “transforms the mother into a being entirely transcending time or place, a dark, anonymous goddess of nourishment, paradoxically animal-like, bound to the earth, and utterly remote from the contingencies of history or the social order” [39]. Such images, Nochlin argues, “function as potent and vastly attractive mythic projections of essentialist femininity” [40] even “more reduced to pure function” [41] than Gauguin’s glorified Tahitian women which may have inspired them.

Modersohn-Becker’s representations of maternity, however, do not form the unified picture of motherhood that Nochlin’s critique implies. They reveal an undercurrent of ambivalence towards the subject that is also apparent in Self-Portrait on her Sixth Wedding Day. Her mother-child embraces show little of the warmth or affection of Mary Cassatt’s mothers, for example; their physical intimacy is treated with emotional restraint, remoteness or severity [42]. Their faces are obscured (e.g., Reclining Mother and Child). Mothers stare away from their children or blankly into space, their bodies closely united but their gazes disconnected. Their stoicism gives them a sense of patient endurance as much as it renders them unemotional and uninvolved (e.g., Kneeling Mother and Child). Earlier, she had painted a nursing Silent Mother (1903, fig. 8), without grace or pride and completely absent from the act of nourishment that seems to suck the life out of her plump breast.

Furthermore, the associations between primitivism and childbirth, popular within Modersohn-Becker’s circle in Germany, not only served to reinforce women’s natural childbearing role. Primitive art, as a gateway to mythical or original birth giving, was also the ideal metaphor for the avant-garde’s search for regeneration through artistic creation. At the same time, ‘physiological’ studies of the turn of the century stated that women’s actual procreative capacity drained so much of their energy that none was left for artistic activities [43].

So to come full circle to Self-Portrait on her Sixth Wedding Day, Modersohn-Becker was perhaps not addressing motherhood as women’s “single true purpose” so much as envisioning new associations between procreativity and creativity, i.e., positing herself as both procreator and creator [44]. What is she referring to when she writes about motherhood in her journal in 1901: “I’m not ready for that yet. I must wait a little while longer to be certain that I will bear glorious fruit?” [45] This artist, who repeatedly painted herself with flowers, fruit and plants, may have been referring as much to her artistic as to her biological fecundity.

Self-Portrait on her Sixth Wedding Day evolved into the Figure Composition of 1907 (fig. 9) in a stylised form more typical of her late self-portraits [46]. She has a similar pose and expression of self-examination but the fruit she is holding in her hands has quite literally replaced her pregnant belly. The emotional and symbolic content is ambiguous, and the three figures seem to be involved in a mysterious ritual. The artist stands between two women in profile. One is offering her a flower, frowning and watching suspiciously, the other is clasping a fruit and looking up to the sky in fear or despair. The flat arrangement of figures and rhythmical placement of their arms give a frieze-like, iconic quality to the piece. With Figure Composition, Modersohn-Becker may be revising the dominant codes of primitivism, inserting herself as an icon into her own primitive, sacred language of creativity.

Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace: A synthesis

In Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace (1906, fig. 10), Paula Modersohn-Becker brings together, in a puzzling image, disparate threads of woman as earth mother, goddess of nature, notions of fecundity, primitive spirituality, and the controversial subject of nudity. The nude self-portrait best illustrates the problem of self-representation for women artists. Among traditional iconography, that of the female nude in particular undermines women’s efforts to portray themselves as subjects. According to Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, nudes in painting primarily becamefemale nudes after the late eighteenth-century, and from that period onwards, “woman is present as an image but with the specific connotations of body and nature that is passive, available, possessable [and] powerless” [47]. To the male avant-garde artists of the early twentieth-century, significant, authentic art was rooted in male erotic energy; the female nude was thus the ideal prop to demonstrate the authenticity of their artistic vision. In the decade preceding the First World War, nude women were portrayed as “sexually subjugated beings” whose “bodily self-offering and spiritual self-defacement” denied their humanity, dignity and particularity, while serving to “assert the virile, vigorous and uninhibited sexual appetite of the artist” [48].

It is against this backdrop of depictions that Modersohn-Becker paints a strikingly different female nude where she grapples her position as artist/subject and body/object. It is described by some authors as a daring, unflinching confrontation of her own nudity, an image of disarming honesty that exudes inner power and quiet confidence. Indeed, this self-portrait is more akin to Modersohn-Becker’s steady, monumental peasant mothers than to the defaced, passive bodies painted by some of her male contemporaries. There is a forceful directness to her assertive gaze and broad, frontal body pushed up against the picture frame. This image is not just naked flesh; it is of a heavy, detailed head and a fully conscious mind. As argued by Carol Duncan, “rare is the image of a naked woman whose head so outweighs her body” [49].

On the other hand, the head and body seem strangely disconnected. There is an abrupt demarcation between the fleshy colour of the torso and the bluish hues of the neck and face. The head is so weighty relative to the body that they hardly seem to belong to the same person. To expand on Duncan’s remarks about the treatment of the body, the arms and hands almost seem contorted in their placement within the limits of the chest, so that she seems at once assertive in her pressing physicality and self-contained in her contrived pose [50]. This is not a coherent image. Her reconfiguration of mind-body/subject-object dichotomies instead yields a juxtaposition of contrasts.

The flowers in her head and hands and the background of vegetation further complicate the image: the underlying association between woman and nature works against the representation of the artist as an agent of culture. The main influence on this painting has been attributed to Gauguin, whose paintings of Tahitian women (e.g., Tahitian Women with Mango Fruits (1899)) present breasts and fruit as twin metaphors for the female body as passive, natural terrain [51]. In early twentieth-century avant-garde art, the “nude woman in nature” paradigm defines woman as a being indissociable from her biological capacity to procreate. She is dominated by instincts more so than man. Deprived of a civilised human consciousness, she is considered in opposition to male culture [52]. In the vocabulary of primitivism, the notion of the ‘natural’ woman is further rooted in a mythical sense of the origins, in a primeval essence of woman. Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace clearly borrows from that vocabulary. Through the simplification of her own monumental form, Modersohn-Becker turns herself into an icon of nature and fecundity—an earth mother who recalls her naked maternities.

In Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace, Modersohn-Becker attempts to reconcile the multiple roles and meanings ascribed to women in early twentieth-century European art and society. She is earth mother and artist; elemental woman and self-possessed individual. She seems to jump out at the viewer while dissolving into a remote archetype. She is a “fully conscious and fully sexual human being,” [53] a nude female body and an agent of her own image. In 1900, aged twenty-four years old, she wrote in her diary: “I know that I shall not live very long […] And if only now love would blossom for me, before I depart; and if I can paint three good pictures, then I shall go gladly, with flowers in my hair” [54]. Years later, she painted herself crowned with flowers, a maker of culture who remained a creature of nature.

The incomplete resolution of those terms in Self-Portrait with Amber Necklaceis evidence that Modersohn-Becker struggled to combine incompatible codes and meanings. As a result, “the elements with which [ she ] worked failed to coalesce” [55]It is tempting to conclude that works such as Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace are ineffective because they fail to transcend dominant codes of representation and are thus recuperated by them [56]. However, tension ridden pieces such as Paula Modersohn-Becker’s self-portraits should be seen not as doomed attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable, but perhaps as images of just that: duality and contradiction, as she navigates between the constructs of woman and artist, and finds herself unfit for any single, stable position. The interest lies not in the evaluation of the effectiveness or degree of resolution of those images, but in how their very inconsistencies, their “alien accents,” translate the conflicting discourses that define her as a woman artist.

Modersohn-Becker provides an early example of what Meskimmon identifies as a prominent feature of women’s self-portraits in the twentieth-century: “imagery which suggests the shifting and provisional nature of identity, rather than its unity or fixity” [57]. In contrast to conventional forms of self-portraiture, understood as the “flat mirroring” of a static and knowable self, “these works have found visual modes for representing the ‘woman artist’, a site which in itself challenges any sense of a seamless, unified subject through its combination of contradictions” [58]. In adopting the shifting positions I have been outlining in her series of self-portraits, Modersohn-Becker exposes a “multiplicity of ‘selves’,” and the way that these multiple, fragmented selves can only ever be resolved into a fractured, provisional whole which escapes as much as it acknowledges, traditional boundaries [59].

Modersohn-Becker’s writings are replete with conceptions of her identity as manifold and unstable. “ ‘What is complete? When is one complete?’,” [60] she asked in a letter to her sister in 1900. For her, moving through the stages of life was like shedding an old self and adopting a new one, in the same way that she wore different cloaks of identity from one self-portrait to the next. Upon returning to Worpswede in 1899, she wrote to her parents: “As I left Bremen behind, the very moment I abandoned the unpleasantness of my old ragged and shabby self, and the minute I buckled my green, homemade sack on my back and took off my jacket and my little fur cap, I became a whole person again and rejoiced in my humanity” [61]. In 1904, while her husband was away for a few days, she played the part of the single woman, a former version of herself that coexisted with the newer married one: “[…] I am playing Paula Becker […] I’m feeling so marvelous; half of me is still Paula Becker, and the other half is acting as if it were” [62]. Early on, she had the intuition that “becoming somebody” would be a continual and conflicted process that could not entail stable identification with a one-sided ‘Paula’, with either woman, wife, mother or artist. She captured it best in a letter to her parents in 1899: “And so the point of this letter is simply to assure you that I’m still your old Paula, even if a new Paula is on her way. And if this new Paula doesn’t please you, take consolation in the thought that there will soon be a time when the new Paula will be replaced by an even newer one. They come and go like the seasons outside. And it’s impossible to leave one out” [63].

List of Illustrations


1. Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology (London: Pandora, 1981), 44.   For a further discussion of the evolution of the definition of the ‘woman artist’, see “Critical Stereotypes: The Essential Feminine or How Essential is Femininity” in Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology.

2. Lisa Tickner, “Feminism, Art History, and Sexual Difference,” Genders 3 (November 1988): 101-2.

3. Tickner, 156.

4. Tickner, 102.

5. Tickner.

6. Ellen C. Oppler, “Paula Modersohn-Becker: Some Facts and Legends,” Art Journal 35.4 (Summer 1976): 365.

7. Tickner, 102.

8. Gillian Perry, Paula Modersohn-Becker: Her Life and Work (New York: Icon, 1979), 2.

9. Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950 ( Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976), 273.

10. Paula Modersohn-Becker, The Letters and Journals, edited by Günter Busch and Liselotte von Reinken, translated by Arthur S. Wensinger and Carole Clew Hoey (New York: Taplinger, 1983), 272-3.

11. Oppler, 364.

12. Ruth Bass, “Self-Portrait with Bitter Lemon,” ArtNews 83.5 (May 1984): 103.

13. Modersohn-Becker, 274-5.

14. Modersohn-Becker, 125-6.

15. Perry, 50-1.

16. Modersohn-Becker, 343-4.

17. Modersohn-Becker, 408-9.

18. Male artists used various “tropes” to define their status as artists. They emphasized their isolation, alienation or uniqueness. They portrayed themselves in marginal spaces such as cafés, bars or brothels. Their images of “dominant masculinity outside conventional limits” were a guarantee of authentic experience and genuine feeling. The nude female model was used as a prop for the artist both to align himself with marginality and to reinforce his own power. For further discussion, see “Emasculating the Tropes in Self-Portraiture” in The Art of Reflection: Women Artists’ Self-Portraiture in the Twentieth Century by Marsha Meskimmon (London: Scarlet Press, 1996).

19. Harris and Nochlin, 276.

20. Bass, 104.

21. Frances Borzello, Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self-Portraits (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998), 139.

22. Perry, 138.

23. Oppler, 365.

24. Modersohn-Becker, 413.

25. Modersohn-Becker, 140.

26. Modersohn-Becker, 395.

27. Modersohn-Becker, 388-89.

28. Modersohn-Becker, 384.

29. Modersohn-Becker, 343.

30. She in fact left her husband for Paris on February 23, 1906, two weeks after reaching her thirtieth birthday.

31. Borzello, 145.

32. She describes Christmas, for instance, as “a celebration for women in particular, because these tidings of motherhood go on and on, living in every woman…I bow down to it wherever I encounter it; I kneel before it in humility.” See Modersohn-Becker (1983).

33. About a young woman she had previously used as a model, she wrote in December 1898: “I had to draw her as a mother, had to. That is her single true purpose.” See Modersohn-Becker (1983).

34. Modersohn-Becker, 409.

35. Modersohn-Becker, 422.

36. Modersohn-Becker, 112.

37. Katharine Hoffman, Concepts of Identity: Historical and Contemporary Images and Portraits of Self and Family (New York: Icon, 1996), 87.

38. Perry, 62.

39. By contrast, according to Nochlin, K ä the Kollwitz’s etchings of working-class mothers illustrate the material circumstances which they are subjected to and thereby insert motherhood into its social and historical context.

40. Harris and Nochlin, 67.

41. Harris and Nochlin.

42. Stewart Buettner, “Images of Modern Motherhood in the Art of Morisot, Cassatt, Modersohn-Becker, Kollwitz,” Woman’s Art Journal 7.2 (Fall 1986/Winter 1987): 17.

43. Marsha Meskimmon, The Art of Reflection: Women Artists’ Self-Portraiture in the Twentieth Century (London: Scarlet Press, 1996), 139-40.

44. Meskimmon, 141-2.

45. Modersohn-Becker, 265.

46. Perry, 54.

47. Parker and Pollock, 119.

48. Carol Duncan, “Virility and Domination in Early Twentieth Century Vanguard Painting,” The Aesthetics of Power: Essays in Critical Art History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 98.

49. Duncan, 92.

50. Duncan, 93.

51. Parker and Pollock, 119.

52. Duncan, 94.

53. Duncan, 93.

54. Modersohn-Becker, 195.

55. Modersohn-Becker, 121-23.

56. Meskimmon, 199.

57. Meskimmon, 92.

58. Meskimmon, 199.

59. Meskimmon, 95.

60. Modersohn-Becker, 190.

61. Modersohn-Becker, 125.

62. Modersohn-Becker, 331.

63. Modersohn-Becker, 140-41.