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1876
Minna Hermine Paula Becker is born in Dresden on 8th February as the third of seven children. Her father, Carl Woldemar Becker (Odessa, 31.1.1841 – Bremen, 30.11.1901), works as construction and operations inspector for the Berlin-Dresden railway, and later as construction manager of the Prussian Railway Administration in Bremen. Her mother, Mathilde Becker (Lübeck, 3.11.1852 – Bremen, 22.1.1926), comes from an aristocratic family von Bültzingslöwen.

1888
The Becker family moves to Bremen and immediately takes a keen interest in the city's literary and artistic life.

1892
Paula Becker spends seven months in England, staying with her father’s sister, Marie Hill, on a country estate near London. She takes her first lessons in drawing from plaster models at the “St. John’s Wood Art School”.
“I shall have lessons there every day from ten until four. At first, I shall only be drawing, beginning with very simple arabesques and other designs. If I progress, then I shall make charcoal sketches after Greek plaster casts. [...] If I advance further, I shall begin drawing and painting from live models.” (To her parents, 21.10.1892).

1893–95
In accordance with her father’s wish to render his daughter economically independent, Paula Becker continues her education at the seminar for women teachers in Bremen; she completes the training on 18.9.1895. Parallel to this, she takes painting and drawing lessons.
“I am having such splendid lessons with Wiegandt. I am working from live models, in charcoal. [...] Ever since, I have been drawing my own faithful reflection in the mirror.” (To her brother, Kurt Becker, 26.4.1893).
In April 1895, Paula Becker sees the first exhibition of works by the Worpswede painters in the Kunsthalle Bremen. She mentions Fritz Mackensen, Otto Modersohn, and Heinrich Vogeler.
“You must have also heard of the Sermon on the Heath, which one of them, a man named Mackensen, painted while sitting in a glass wagon. [...] Naturally, everything is extremely realistic, but it is still wonderful. The only thing I cannot completely understand is the perspective. [...] the whole scene seems to slope away as if it were falling? I wonder if that is the way things really are or whether the way we foreshorten perspective is just something that has been artificially trained in us.” (To her brother Kurt Becker, 27.4.1895).

1896
In April/May she attends a course at the school of drawing and painting of the “Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen und Kunstfreundinnen” in Berlin, which was founded in 1867.
“Four afternoons a week are devoted to drawing instructions, which completely occupy my thoughts. [...] Whenever I talk with somebody I try hard to see just what kind of shadow his or her nose casts, or how the deep shadow under a certain cheekbone starts out and then gradually blends into the highlights. This gradual blending is the hardest thing for me to capture. I am still drawing shadows much too distinctly. Instead of emphasizing what is important I find that I am trivializing. [...] My heads are still too wooden, too stiff.” (To her parents, 23.4.1896).
“When I make my pilgrimage down the Potsdamerstraße on my way to drawing school, I study the thousand faces that pass me by and I try with a glance to discover the essential thing about each of them. [...] Then I try to see everything in two dimensions, to dissolve curved lines into angular lines.” (Journal [?], prior to 18.5.1896).
In October, she begins an eighteen months training period at the same school: she attends the portrait class of Jacob Alberts and Martin Körte, the life drawing class of Ernst Friedrich Hausmann and takes landscape lessons with Ludwig Dettmann.
She lives in the house of her uncle, Wulf von Bültzingslöwen, in Berlin-Schlachtensee and uses her free time to pursue her studies in the museums.
“I am becoming very familiar with the German masters now, and with Holbein – but Rembrandt still remains the greatest.” (To her parents, 23.4.1896) She spends her summer vacations in Hindelang and visits the Pinakothek and the Schackgalerie in Munich on her way home.

1897
In February, Paula Becker enters the painting class of Jeanne Bauck, where she paints mainly portraits.
“I love oil colours. They are so rich and powerful, so wonderful to work with after those shy pastels. [...] Yesterday I began working in oils under Hausmann, too. He has us work so differently from Jeanne Bauck. While she teaches us to work down from the brightest tones, taking white as the norm, he has us work up from the darkest tones, from shadows. The deeper the shadows, the brighter the saturated light must be. Rembrandt got such fantastic effects from light. All that came from the depth of his shadows. Living skin in daylight is so dazzling, so luminous, that it’s nearly impossible to paint it bright enough.” (To her parents, 14.5.1897).
She often visits art exhibitions at the galleries of Schulte, Gurlitt, and Keller & Reiner. In the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett, she sees drawings by Michelangelo and Botticelli’s illustrations for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. From the end of July to the end of August, she stays in Worpswede for the first time, together with her friend, the paintress Paula Ritter.
“Today I painted my first plein air portrait at the clay pit, a little blond and blue-eyed girl. The way the little thing stood in the yellow sand was simply beautiful–a bright and shimmering thing to see. It made my heart leap. Painting people is indeed more beautiful than painting a landscape.” (To her parents, Worpswede, August 1897), and “This morning I was painting an old man from the poorhouse. It went very well. He sat there like a stick with the grey sky as background.” (To her parents, late August 1897).
She sets up a studio for herself in an old stable building at her parents’ house on Schwachhauser Chaussee for the summer months. Her brothers and sisters sit for her as models.
At the beginning of October she travels to Dresden for the “Internationale Kunstausstellung” with works by Carrière, Degas, Ensor, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley as well as Böcklin, Hodler, Kalckreuth, Klinger, Leibl, Liebermann, Segantini and the Worpswede artists.
In early December, she travels to Vienna for the wedding of her cousin Lily Stammann to sculptor Carl Bernewitz. She visits the museums and the Liechtenstein gallery, mentioning Moretto, Titian, Rubens, Dürer, Cranach, Holbein, Leonardo and van Dyck.

1898
Continuation of her studies in Berlin. She sees an exhibition of artist lithographs at the Lichthof of the Kunstgewerbemuseum, where – amongst others – works by Puvis de Chavannes, Manet, Pissarro, Redon, Renoir, Sérusier, Toulouse-Lautrec, Valloton and Munch are shown. She sees works by Rippl-Rónai at Gurlitt’s gallery and at the Schulte gallery an exhibition of the “Elfer”, i.e. predecessors of the Berlin Secession as Liebermann, Alberts, von Hofmann and Klinger, – she mentions Leistikow in her letters. A Munch exhibition takes place at Keller & Reiner in April. On a trip to Leipzig, Paula Becker visits Klinger’s studio.
At the end of May, she ends her studies in Berlin.
In June/July, she travels to Norway with her uncle Wulf von Bültzingslöwen. In September, she moves to Worpswede. On her first evening in Worpswede she writes to her aunt Cora von Bültzingslöwen: “I am savouring my life with every breath I draw, and in the distance Paris gleams and shimmers. I truly believe that my most secret and ardent wish is going to come true.” (7.9.1898).
Friendship with the sculptor Clara Westhoff, who will marry Rainer Maria Rilke in 1901. She is taught by Fritz Mackensen, who has already accepted Clara Westhoff and Marie Bock as pupils. She produces lifesize charcoal and red chalk drawings.
“Every few days Mackensen comes over to give me his excellent critique.” (Journal, 18.10.1898). As Ottilie Reylaender recalls: “[...] the large nude study she had begun was on the easel. Mackensen corrected her, asking with a sharp look whether she really saw what she had done there in nature itself. Her answer was a strange one: a quick ‘yes’ and then a hesitant ‘no’, while apparently gazing into the distance.” (Ottilie Reylaender-Böhme, in: Hetsch 1932, p. 34).

1899
Besides the life-size drawings from models, her sketchbooks are filling up with landscape drawings, figure studies and composition drafts. She completes her first paintings as well as a number of etchings, which she prints using the hand press at Vogeler’s home, “Barkenhoff”. As a letter to her parents indicates, she regards Worpswede merely as a temporary place to stay in order to advance her studies:
“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.” (12.2.1899).
As from June, she keeps a human skeleton in her studio for anatomical studies. She reads a lot, classic literature but above all J.P. Jacobsen and Henrik Ibsen. In August, she travels to Switzerland with her aunt Marie Hill. The return journey takes them to Munich, Nuremberg and Leipzig, where Clara Westhoff is working with Klinger, as well as to Dresden to the “Deutsche Kunstausstellung”, in which the Worpswede painters are represented with 22 paintings. In December, together with Marie Bock and Clara Westhoff, she exhibits some studies in the Kunsthalle Bremen, which receive an annihilating review from painter and critic Arthur Fitger. He declares their works as showing a “wretched lack of talent.” (Review from the Weser Zeitung (Bremen), 20. December 1899).

1900
The night of New Year’s Eve, Paula Becker travels to Paris for the first time. There she meets Clara Westhoff, who wishes to study at the school of sculpture set up by Rodin. Initially, the two of them live in the Grand Hôtel de la Haute Loire at 203, Boulevard Raspail. At the end of January, Paula Becker moves to 9, Rue Campagne Première. She studies at the private Académie Colarossi in Rue de la Grande Chaumière and attends the life drawing class. “The critiques seem to be objective and good. One does not work life-size here, but in the same format as in Berlin.” (To her parents, 11.1.1900). “I have registered for a morning course in life drawing. At the beginning of each week Girardot or Collins come and criticize the accuracy of our work. Toward the end of the week, Courtois comes and criticizes primarily the more picturesque aspects of what we have done, tonal values etc. [...] In the afternoon there is a course in croquis also from the nude in which for two hours we draw models in four different poses. This is very constructive for understanding movement.” (To her father, 18.1.1900). In addition, she and Clara Westhoff attend the free anatomy lessons at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. “In anatomy class, we are now learning about the construction of muscles in the human body. Two live models and a corpse are used for demonstration purposes. It’s extremely interesting, but unfortunately the sight of the corpse, and never fails to give me a headache.” (To her parents, 22.1.1900).
Paula Becker wins the “concours” of her semester. “So, I have a medal and am now a big wig in the school. All four professors voted for me.” (To her parents, 3.3.1900).
She is very impressed by paintings of Cézanne, which she discovers, still standing on the floor at the gallery of Ambroise Vollard, at 6, Rue Lafitte, after the exhibition in December.
“One day she ordered me to join her on a walk along the opposite bank of the Seine, because she wanted to show me something special there. She led me to the art dealer Vollard and in his shop she began– since no one disturbed us – to turn around the paintings leaning against the wall and to select some with great certainty, which had a new, intense simplicity resembling Paula’s own approach. These were paintings by Cézanne, which we were both seeing for the first time. We had never even heard his name before. Paula had discovered him in her own particular way, and she regarded this discovery as an unexpected confirmation of her own artistic searching.” (Clara Rilke-Westhoff, in: Hetsch 1932, p. 43).
During her frequent visits to the Louvre, she copies paintings and sculptures into a sketchbook, which she continues to use until 1906. In her letters she mentions Titian, Botticelli, Fiesole (Fra Angelico), Velázquez, Rembrandt, Holbein, della Robbia, and Donatello and among the more recent masters: Corot, Rousseau, Millet, Daubigny, Degas, Puvis de Chavannes, Courbet, and Monet. In an exhibition at Georges Petit’s gallery, she sees works by the Breton painters Simon as well as by Cottet, whom she visits in his studio. In March a comprehensive exhibition of Seurat takes place in the rooms of the “Revue Blanche”. She meets Emil Nolde and Emmi Walther, a paintress from Dachau, and visits the world exposition and Rodin’s sculpture pavilion at the Pont de l’Alma. In June, Otto Modersohn, Fritz and Hermine Overbeck and Marie Bock from Worpswede travel to Paris to visit Paula Becker. During their visit to Paris, Otto Modersohn’s wife Helene dies in Worpswede. Paula Becker returns to Worpswede at the end of June and rents a space with the farmer Brünjes in Ostendorf. She has the walls painted in bright colours: ultramarine at the bottom and turquoise at the top, separated by a band of redbrown. Until her final days, this coloured division of the wall often forms the background to her still-life works and figurative compositions. Rilke also refers to the rooms with Brünjes as the “lily studio” due to a fabric hanging on the wall with a bourbon lily. On Sundays the group of friends meets in the “Weißer Saal” at Vogeler’s “Barkenhoff”: Otto Modersohn and Paula Becker, Heinrich Vogeler and his future wife Martha Schröder, Clara Westhoff, Marie Bock, and Paula’s sisters Milly and Herma. The poets Carl Hauptmann and Rainer Maria Rilke are frequent guests. On 12th September Paula Becker and Otto Modersohn become engaged. In October, she rents a studio next to Otto Modersohn’s house, previously used by Ottilie Reylaender, who is leaving for Paris. Apart from a few figurative works, Paula Becker is almost exclusively painting landscapes now.

The Foundation  Publications  Exhibitions  Adress
DE  FR  IT


Self-Portrait, 1897.
Gouache 24,5 x 26,5 cm




Drawing after an Egyptian Woman Bust, London, 1892.
Charcoal, 56,5 x 34 cm




Standing Male Nude.
Charcoal, 68,5 x 35,5 cm




Self-Portrait, Berlin 1897.
Pastel, 45,8 x 30,8 cm




Girl with Fire Lilies, Worpswede 1897.
Canvas 39,3 x 48 cm




Breastfeeding Peasant Woman, 1898.
Charcoal and red chalk, 80 x 46 cm
(see letter PMB 16.12.1898)




Woman’s Head in Profile, 1899.
Charcoal and Pastel, 37 x 62,9 cm




Standing Male Nude. Worpswede, c. 1899.
Charcoal, 189,5 x 84,5 cm




Standing Child Nude with the Skeleton Drawn In, 1899.
Charcoal, 145 x 111 cm (see letter June 1899)




Grey Landscape with Moor Canal, 1899.
46 x 73,5 cm




Bilderrätsel »Medaille«, Paris 1900.
Watercolour and China ink, 13,9 x 8,7 cm




Standing Female nude, Seen from the Back, 1900.
72,3 x 31 cm




Moon above landscape, c. 1900.
39 x 53 cm

1901
In order to prepare for her life as a married wife, Paula Becker spends January and February in Berlin to learn cooking. She sees Rilke frequently and visits museums and exhibitions, where she pursues her interest in Rembrandt, Velázquez and Verrocchio as well as in Dürer, Hans Baldung, the Master of Meßkirch and Goya. Again, she copies Old Master paintings. She sees a Daumier exhibition at Cassirer’s and paintings by Böcklin at Gurlitt’s.
The 9th of March, she returns to Worpswede: “In the last few days I have again been thinking very intensively about my art and I believe that things are progressing for me. I even think that I am beginning to have a liaison with the sun. Not with the sun that divides everything up and puts shadows in everywhere and plucks the image into a thousand pieces, but with the sun that broods and makes things grey and heavy and combines them all in this grey heaviness so that they become one.” (To Clara Rilke-Westhoff, 13.5.1901).
On 25th May, Paula Becker and Otto Modersohn get married. Otto brings his three-year-old daughter Elsbeth into the relationship. Their honeymoon takes them to Berlin, Dresden and Schreiberhau, where they visit Carl Hauptmann, as well as to Prague, Munich and Dachau. After the wedding, Paula Modersohn-Becker keeps her space with Brünjes, which is converted into a studio for her. “Paula’s day was strictly organised. Immediately after breakfast, she gave some instructions in the kitchen, and then went to her studio at Brünjes’, where she had lived in before our marriage. [...] She took a short rest after lunch and then returned to her work. In the evenings, we often viewed and discussed the studies we had made outside. She liked to play the piano or read, but she never touched the newspapers.” (Otto Modersohn, in: Hetsch 1932, p. 23).
During this summer, she paints predominantly portraits and figures against a landscape background, as well as a number of compositions influenced by Art Nouveau. On 30th November her father Woldemar Becker dies.

1902
In her paintings, Paula Modersohn-Becker concentrates especially on groups of figures embedded in a landscape; occasionally she and Otto Modersohn work together in front of the same motif.
“Even after supper the two of us dash over to the poorhouse and do oil studies of the cow, the goat, and the old woman with her walking stick, and of all the children there.” (To her mother, 27.6.1902).
She intensively debates her own paintings and deliberates on colours and composition: “I dream of movement in colour, of gentle shimmering, vibration, of one object setting another in motion through colour.” (Journal, 3.6.1902), and “I believe that one should not think about nature too much in painting, at least not during the process of conceiving the image. An oil sketch ought to be made just according to the way one once felt something in nature. But my own personal feeling, that is the main thing. Once I have that pinned down, clear in its form and colour, I then introduce things from nature which will make my picture have a natural effect, so that a layman will be totally convinced that I painted my picture from nature. These days I have felt just what the mood of colours means to me: it means that everything in this picture changes its local colour according to the same principle, and that thereby all muted tones blend in a unified relationship one to the other.” (Journal, 1.10.1902), and “I was reading about and looking at Mantegna. I can sense how good he is for me. His enormous plasticity – it has such powerful substance. That is just what is lacking in my things. I could do something about that if I could add his substantiality to the greatness of form I am struggling for. At present I see before my eyes very simple and barely articulated things. My second major obstacle is my lack of intimacy. Mackensen’s way of portraying the people here is not great enough for me, too genrelike. Whoever could, ought to capture them in runic script.” (Journal, 1.12.1902).

1903
On 9th/10th February she travels to Paris for a second time and rents a studio at 29, Rue Cassette. Again, she chooses the Académie Colarossi for a life drawing class. Together with Rainer-Maria and Clara Rilke, who also stay in Paris at this time, she visits exhibitions as well as the art dealers on Rue Lafitte; in Hôtel Drouot, they see the exhibition of old Japanese paintings and sculptures of the deuxième vente from the Hayashi collection on 15th February.
“I was seized by the great strangeness of these things. It makes our own art seem all the more conventional to me. Our art is very meagre in expressing the emotions we have inside. Old Japanese art seems to have a better solution for that. The expression of nocturnal things, of horrors, of sweetness, of the feminine, of coquetry, all these things seem to be solved in a more childlike and concise way than we would do it. We must put more weight on the fundamentals!! – When I took my eyes from these pictures and began looking at the people around me, I suddenly saw that they are more remarkable, much more striking and surprising than they have ever been painted. [...] And now I come to the other insight that I had yesterday on the rue Lafitte: the ability to create from the moment at hand, something that the French have in abundance. They don’t seem to care whether what they are making is a “picture” or not.” (Journal 15.2.1903).
“I must learn to express the gentle vibration of things, their roughened texture, their intricacies. I have to find an expression for that in my drawing, too, in the way I sketch my nudes here in Paris, only more original more subtly observed.” (Journal, 20.2.1903).
She draws in the Louvre on an almost daily basis. Her interest now focuses on antiquity as well as on Rembrandt and Veronese, and she mentions the Tanagra figurines. For the first time she sees reproductions of the Egyptian Fayum portraits of the Theodor Graf collection, dating from late antiquity, “I feel an inner relationship which leads from the antique to the Gothic, especially from the early ancient art, and from the Gothic to my own feeling for form. A great simplicity of form is something marvellous.” (Journal, 25.2.1903).
After a visit to the Musée du Luxembourg she mentions Manet’s “Olympia” and “Le balcon”, as well as Renoir, Zuloaga, Cottet and Degas. On Rilke’s recommendation, she has the opportunity to visit Rodin in his Paris studio and see his pavilion in Meudon; he shows her his drawings and watercolours. She also visits Cottet in his studio.
On 18th March she returns to Worpswede. There she works on portraits and a series of “Mother and Child” images.
The Modersohn family spends the summer holiday on Amrum from 9th July – 5th August. In winter 1903/04 she paints only a few paintings and reads, mainly French literature.



Birch Trunk in Front of a Landscape, c. 1901.
73,6 x 46,2 cm




Sandkuhle, July 1901.
40 x 64,5 cm




Sketches, c. 1901.
Charcoal, 41,5 x 39,5 cm




Modersohns Garden in Worpswede, c. 1900.
Charcoal, 41,5 x 39,5 cm




Two nacked Boys at a River Bank, c. 1902.
54,6 x 37,8 cm


1904
Paula Modersohn-Becker mostly withdraws from her painter colleagues in Worpswede. In a critical debate with her own work to that date, she seeks new pictorial forms, which she prepares in her drawings. One of her artistic themes in the period of 1904/05 is a figure embedded in the landscape, such as the “Mädchen im Birkenwald mit Katze” and the “Flöte blasendes Mädchen im Birkenwald”.
“Many of the works she painted, even Otto Modersohn did not see. They were created and then stored away. [...] others, in which some unsolved problem troubled her, she would keep in her studio for years, bringing them out again and again, either merely looking at them or taking a brush to them again. In general, all this happened in extraordinary isolation, [...]” (Herma Weinberg, in: Hetsch 1932, p. 18).
In summer, she travels to Berlin, to Dresden to see the “Große Kunstausstellung” with retrospective of 19th century French art, then to Kassel and Braunschweig to study Rembrandt. She plans another trip to Paris “This winter [...] has been a bad time for my work. For that reason it’s a very appropriate time to get a little stimulation from the outside.” (To her sister Herma, 24.12.1904).

1905
On 14th February, Paula Modersohn-Becker travels to Paris for a third time. On 20th. February, she moves from 29, Rue Cassette to 65, Rue Madame. She frequently sees her sister Herma, who lives in Paris to study French.
At the Académie Julian, where Gauguin and the “Nabis” had studied in the 1890ies, she registers for “painting from life from eight to eleven each day.”
Through Rilke she gets to know the Norwegian author Johann Bojer and his wife Ellen. Atelier visits to the “Nabis”, Vuillard and Denis as well as to Cottet, who comes to visit her in turn at her studio.
She sees sculptures by Maillol. In Serrurier’s gallery, there is a Picasso exhibition with 28 paintings. Charles Morice had written the foreword to the catalogue.
“It is strange, this time the old masters are not the ones who have the strongest effect on me; rather and above all it is the very most modern artists. I plan to visit Vuillard and Denis; it is in the atelier that one gets the real impression of an artist. Bonnard is in Berlin at present; I saw two works of his here but I didn’t like them very much.” (To Otto Modersohn, 10.3.1905).
Together with her sister Herma, on 25th March, she visits Maurice Denis at his studio in St. Germain-en-Laye.
She meets the Bremen collectors Alfred Walter Heymel and Willy Wiegand. She asks Otto to send her a few addresses of private collections from the third volume of Julius Meyer-Graefe’s book “Entwicklungsgeschichte der Modernen Kunst“, that had been published in 1904.
At the opening of the “Salon des Indépendants” on 24th March, she sees paintings by Matisse and the Fauves as well as the retrospective shows of Seurat and van Gogh. At the latter, two versions of the “Berceuse” are on display.
From 29th March – 7th April she is joined in Paris by Otto Modersohn, Milly Becker and Martha and Heinrich Vogeler. They see Gustave Fayet’s Gauguin collection and make a trip to see Rodin in Meudon.
Together they travel back to Worpswede. Paula asks her sister Herma, who is still living in Paris, to let her know about various magazine publications on Gauguin, e.g. Noa-Noa, and the the Gauguin-biography by Charles Morice.
“In her folders and in small frames on the wall she collected reproductions of Egyptian portraits (Graff [sic] collection), and Indian sculptures, which her aunt got from there, of Persian miniatures that she saw in the Museum Guimet, of early antiquity, early Italian painters (Giotto, Uccello), old German masters (Strigel, Cranach): Greco, and modern French painters: Gauguin, van Gogh, Cézanne, Denis, Maillol and others.” (Otto Modersohn, in: Hetsch 1932, p. 26).
Her sister Herma Weinberg also reports on this: “[...] I remember that in the last years my sister decorated her tiny dining room with a frieze of Egyptian grave portraits at roughly head height.” (To Günter Busch, 17.12.1961).
In November Paula and Otto Modersohn, together with Heinrich Vogeler, visit Karl Ernst Osthaus and his wife in Hagen, and view their Museum Folkwang.
“The most beautiful thing in Hagen for me was the museum owned by a Mr. Osthaus. He has collected the newest and latest art around himself there: Rodin, Minne, Maillol, and Meunier, Gauguin, van Gogh, an old Trübner, an old Renoir, and many other beautiful things. [...] The nude at the Salon that you wrote about is by Maillol, a sculptor whom I first saw last spring and whom I love very much. The figure is going to the museum in Hagen.” (To Herma Becker, 8.11.1905).
She focuses on still-lifes, and, towards the end of the year, she begins to work on large nude compositions. In November, she portrays Clara Rilke-Westhoff. At Christmas, Rainer Maria Rilke stays in Worpswede. He visits her at her studio and acquires the painting “Säugling mit der Hand der Mutter”. He writes to Karl von der Heydt:
“The strange thing was finding Modersohn’s wife busy with her very own development in painting, working heedless of all else and with such determination, on things that are very much of Worpswede and yet could not have been seen or painted there before by anyone. And she has this approach that is very much her own, strangely akin to van Gogh and his style.” (Meudon, 16.1.1906).
Towards the end of the year, Otto and Paula Modersohn receive an invitation from Carl Hauptmann and stay in Schreiberhau from 28th December to 13th January. There they meet, among others, the sociologist Werner Sombart, and, during a trip to Dresden, the painter Otto Mueller.



Sleeping Child, c. 1904.
62,5 x 69,5 cm




Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace, c. 1905.
34,5 x 27,3 cm




Still Life with Robbia-Putto, c. 1905.
Canvas, 50 x 75 cm




Street in Paris with Hooded Child, 1905/6.
Charcoal, 29,3 x 21,7 cm




Horse-drawn omnibus in Paris, 1905/6.
Charcoal, 29,8 x 22 cm




Pont au Double, 1905/6.
Charcoal, 21,7 x 25 cm


1906
On their way back from Schreiberhau, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Otto Modersohn travel to Dresden and Berlin. They visit the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum and at the Nationalgalerie Berlin they see the “Jahrhundertausstellung Deutscher Kunst” exhibiting works of art from 1775 to 1875.
On 23rd February, she sets out for a longer stay in Paris. She wants to leave Otto Modersohn, and as early as 17.2. writes to Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she had spoken about her plans:
“And now, I don’t even know how I am supposed to sign my name. I am not Modersohn and I am not Paula Becker anymore either. I am Me, and I hope to become Me more and more.”
In the same letter she talks of possibilities to exhibit in Paris, which Rilke has been exploring for her: “I do not want to apply for the Salon at all, but for the Indépendants next year. By that time I will probably have some better works.” To Otto Modersohn she writes:
“I feel so insecure about myself since I have abandoned everything that was secure in me and around me. [...] Will you send me, at least for the immediate future, one hundred and twenty marks each month so that I can live?” (9.4.1906).
After a short stay at 29, Rue Cassette she rents a studio in the 14, Avenue du Maine at the beginning of March. At the gallery Durand-Ruel she sees the “beautiful exhibition of Manet” with paintings from the Faure collection, some paintings by Courbet, and a room with works by Odilon Redon, who “fails to inspire” her. She writes to Otto Modersohn about her visits to exhibitions:
“I’ve seen wonderful Courbets; I am sorry that he is now the latest fashion. I think he is greater than either Manet or Monet.” (9.4.1906).
At the same time, there is an exhibition at gallery Druet, including 55 Matisse paintings, and the art dealer Vollard again exhibits a dozen works by Cézanne.
In March/April, she attends courses in life drawing and anatomy at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. “I am deeply involved in my drawing now and it makes me happy to discover all the things I can learn here. [...] My paintings look so dark and muddy here. I must get much purer colours. I have to learn to modulate.” (To Otto Modersohn, 19.3.1906).
And she notes: “Marées and Feuerbach. Marées, the greater. F. took on a conventional form of expression. Great style in form also demands a great style in colour. Zola says in L’oeuvre: Delacroix is in the very bones of us poor realists.” (Ca. 8.5.1906).
She paints Werner Sombart, whom she meets again in Paris. On 31st March, Rilke arrives in Paris; they frequently go on outings, occasionally accompanied by the reform pedagogue, Ellen Key and the Bojer couple. On 21st April they take part in the unveiling of Rodin’s “Thinker” in front of the Pantheon. She spends the Easter period in mid-April with her sister Herma in St. Malo, Brittany. She sees the naive polychrome sculptures that Abbé Fouré had cut into the rocks at Rothéneuf. It is probably in this period, that Herma Becker takes photographs of her sister Paula at the atelier as half and full portraits in the nude. Based on these photos and her reflection in a mirror, Paula Modersohn-Becker paints the large nude self-portraits.
She gets to know the sculptor Bernhard Hoetger and his wife Helene. On 4th of May, Bernhard Hoetger visits her in her studio and is immensely impressed by her talent. Weeks of intense work follow. Based on an Italian model with a small baby, she produces the drawings of sitting, kneeling and recumbent mothers with child, which she uses to prepare for large-scale figurative compositions. “I am getting there. I am working tremendously. I believe I am getting there.” (To Otto Modersohn, 8.5.1906).
She writes to the Vogelers, who acquire her “Stilleben mit Äpfeln und grünem Glas” in May: “With faith in God and myself, I’m painting life-size nudes and still lifes.” (To Martha Vogeler, 21.5.1906).
Between 13th May and 2nd June Rainer Maria Rilke sits for a portrait. Otto Modersohn comes to visit over Whitsuntide from 2nd – 8th June.
In June/July she continues her work on the versions of the “Liegende Mutter mit Kind”.
“Right now, I’m trying to work longer on each painting. That seems to me the only way to get anywhere.” (To Heinrich Vogeler, 30.7.1906).
At the end of July, she spends a few days with the Hoetgers in Burs near Paris. At the beginning of August, still in Paris, she begins to work on the two portraits as well as a half-length figurative painting of Lee Hoetger. According to a letter from her sister Milly dated 18.11. 1906, she is considering exhibiting the halflength portrait in Paris during the spring. “At the moment I am painting Frau Hoetger’s portrait. She can look absolutely magnificent, and grave; with an enormous crown of hair, blond, splendidly shaped.” (To Heinrich Vogeler, 12.8.1906).
Together with the Hoetgers she visits the “Douanier” Henri Rousseau in his studio. She paints her self-portraits as halflength nudes before a background of leaves spread across the flat surface, as well as self-portraits inspired by the Fayum paintings, with a narrow pictorial section. At the same time she produces her proto-cubist paintings of a “Mutter mit Kind auf dem Arm”, “Kniende Mutter mit Kind an der Brust”, and “Halbakt einer Italienerin mit Teller in der erhobenen Hand”.
In September, she gives up the idea of a separation from Otto Modersohn. She writes to Clara Rilke-Westhoff on 17.11.1906: “I shall be returning to my former life but with a few differences. I, too, am different now, somewhat more independent, and no longer full of illusions. This past summer I realized that I am not the sort of woman that stands alone in life. Apart from the eternal worries about money, it is precisely the freedom I have had which was able to lure me away from myself.”
At the end of October Otto Modersohn arrives in Paris to spend the winter there with his wife. Heinrich and Martha Vogeler accompany him and stay in Paris for a week. In the “Salon d’Automne” in the Grand Palais they see works, among the some paintings by Bonnard, Cézanne, Delaunay, Derain, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Matisse, Puy, Redon, as well as a retrospective exhibition of Courbet, and a major Gauguin retrospective with 227 works.
In, October she rents a studio at Boulevard de Montparnasse.
Four of Paula Modersohn-Becker’s paintings are included in an exhibition of the Worpswede artists displayed first in the Kunsthalle Bremen in November and subsequently at the Gurlitt gallery in Berlin. In a review of the exhibition printed in the local newspaper, the director of the Kunsthalle, Gustav Pauli, states: “This time we are especially pleased to welcome a guest seen all too rarely in the Kunsthalle, Paula Modersohn-Becker. Attentive readers of Bremen art reporting will still recall the cruel treatment this highly talented artist received some years ago [...]. Unfortunately, I fear that her serious and great talent will still find few friends among the wider public today.” (Bremer Nachrichten, 11.11.1906)
Otto Modersohn and Paula Modersohn-Becker spend Christmas holidays in Bremen.



Portrait of Rainer Maria Rilke, May/June 1906.
32,3 x 25,4 cm




Self-Portrait with right Hand at the Chin, Summer 1906.
Monotype, 26,3 x 19 cm




Self-Portrait with right Hand at the Chin, Summer 1906.
Monotype, 27 x 21,2 cm




Kneeling Woman with Bird, c. 1906.
Pastel, 68,5 x 52,5 cm




Female nude with a Child on Her Arm, May 1906.
Charcoal, 31,1 x 24,3 cm


1907
In a letter, written on 17th March, Rainer Maria Rilke asks: “Have you seen Maillol again, – and Hoetger?”
Paula Modersohn-Becker sees the extensive Cézanne collection of Auguste Pellerin in Neuilly. In time for Easter, they return to Worpswede at the end of March.
“I am sitting again in my little studio at the Brünjes’ with the green walls, and light blue below. [...] I have the desire to work, even more so because I did nothing during the last months in Paris. Only I did see Cézanne during our very last days there, glorious things from his youth. The Salon d’Automne will be having a special exhibition of his works.” (To Rainer Maria Rilke, 5.4.1907).
At the beginning of July she visits Helene and Bernhard Hoetger in Holthausen. She produces a few figurative pictures, including the two paintings of the woman in the poorhouse, and still lifes.
“I have not done much work this summer, and I have no idea if you will like any of the little that I have accomplished. In conception, all the work has probably remained much the same. However, the execution, I think, is quite another matter. What I want to produce is something compelling, something full, an excitement and intoxication of colour–something powerful. The paintings I did in Paris are too cool, too solitary and empty. [...] I wanted to conquer Impressionism by trying to forget it. What happened was that it conquered me. We must work with digested and assimilated Impressionism.” (To Bernhard Hoetger, summer 1907).
On her request, Rilke sends her the catalogue of the Salon d’Automne, where a Cézanne exhibition had taken place, as well as copies of the “Mercure de France”, dating from 1st and 15th October, which contain the “Souvenirs sur Paul Cézanne et lettres inédits.”
On 18th October, Clara Rilke-Westhoff writes, that she intends to visit Paula soon, and read to her from Rilke’s letters with their reports of the Cézanne exhibition.
On 21st October Paula Modersohn-Becker writes to her friend: “My mind has been so much occupied these days by the thought of Cézanne, of how he has been one of the three or four powerful artists who have affected me like a thunderstorm, like some great event. Do you still remember what we saw at Vollard in 1900? [...] Please come soon and bring the letters. Come right away, Monday if you can possibly make it, for I hope soon, finally, to be otherwise occupied. If it were not absolutely necessary for me to be here right now, nothing could keep me away from Paris.”
Her daughter Mathilde is born on 2nd November. Paula’s mother reports to her daughter Milly Rohland-Becker in Basel: “Now today, Tuesday, I am out here again [...]. The bathing scene today was a splendour! Paula reclines on snow-white pillows beneath her beloved Gauguins and Rodins.” (5.11.1907), and “Before dinner Kurt asked Otto and me to go into Paula’s atelier–but not to tell her anything about it. There we saw an extremely original still life with flowers, sunflowers and hollyhocks, wonderfully painted, and several other good still lifes; also the big nudes from Paris interested us very much.” (10.11.1907).
On 20th November Paula Modersohn-Becker dies of an embolism.


Quotations after: The Letters and Journals, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Northwestern University Press Illinois, 1998 and Rolf Hetsch, Paula Modersohn-Becker. Ein Buch der Freundschaft, Berlin 1932.



Otto Modersohn sleeping, Paris 1906/07.
39,7 x 46,3 cm




Still Life with a Blue Box, 1907.
27,3 x 35,7 cm