Although Paula Modersohn-Becker died in 1907, just as the Expressionist groups in Dresden and Munich were forming, the themes of her work prefigure the movement. This likely self-portrait exhibits her desire to convey not the idealized appearance of the female body but rather its fundamental essence, stripped of all the world’s trappings. She distilled the human body into flattened forms—achieved by erasing and blending the charcoal—and abbreviated the delineation of the feet, hands, and face. The sitter’s piercing stare invites the viewer to move beyond the body as flesh and blood toward her emotional or spiritual state.

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  • Title: Seated Female Nude (Self-Portrait?)
  • Creator: Paula Modersohn-Becker (German, 1876-1907)
  • Date Created: c. 1899
  • Physical Dimensions: Sheet: 62.2 x 33.9 cm (24 1/2 x 13 3/8 in.)
  • Provenance: Ernst Rump [1872-1921], Hamburg, (probably Dr. Ernst Hauswedell, Hamburg, June 1967, no. 1006), (Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1973.35
  • Medium: charcoal with stumping
  • Inscriptions: signed, lower left, in black crayon: p.m.b.; verso, sale stamp, lower right, in purple-gray ink: Samml. E. Rump / [pag.?] 102 [underlined] [Nr.?] 2 [underlined] [numerals are written in black ink]; upper center, in graphite: 76 [circled]; lower left, in graphite: 75 [circled, partially erased]; lower right, in black ink: Paula Modersohn Becker
  • Fun Fact: Paula Modersohn-Becker's career was extremely brief but prolific before dying from complications of childbirth at age 31.
  • Department: Drawings
  • Culture: Germany, 19th century
  • Credit Line: Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
  • Collection: DR - German
  • Accession Number: 1973.35

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