The Lenbachhaus in Munich is currently showing the exhibition “Life? or Theatre? It presents the life’s work of the artist Charlotte Salomon (1917, Berlin – 1943, Auschwitz), which was created within two years of her flight from Berlin to southern France in 1939.
Image above: Charlotte Salomon. Life? or Theatre? Installation view. Shot Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau Munich, 2023. Photo: Ernst Jank
This “Singespiel”, as she called it, consists of 769 sheets divided into three acts and comprising drawings, lines of text and scenic annotations in gouache. The rich convolute, which has been processed and administered by the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam since 1971, is not only an outstanding artistic work of the 20th century, but at the same time provides information about Salomon’s eventful and self-determined life in a unique way. It captivates through the diversity of Solomon’s images as well as the rich references to art, film, music and philosophy of her time.
The narrative form of “Life? or Theatre?” has remained current to this day. The illustrations and texts come together like the scenery of a theatre production or a screenplay and at the same time anticipate the hybrid character of the text and image levels of graphic novels.
The characters in the work are based on Salomon’s personal environment, but are subjectively elaborated by her and thus abstracted into fictional characters. The narrative itself is also not to be understood as an autobiographical factual report, but rather brings different situations and life circumstances into a free context of meaning.
Charlotte Salomon. Gouache from “Life? or Theatre?” (M004196) 1940-1942 Collection Jewish Museum Amsterdam © Charlotte Salomon Foundation.
“Life? or Theatre?” bears witness to a self-confident artistic practice through innovative and powerful pictorial inventions as well as subtle ironic nuances. Even outside of her art, Salomon appears as a sovereign protagonist of her actions – despite family strokes of fate and anti-Semitic persecution. Her life’s work thus offers a unique insight into the complex and violently truncated life of a young artist.
An exhibition of the Lenbachhaus Munich in cooperation with the Jewish Museum, Amsterdam.
Curated by Irene Faber, Collection Curator Jewish Museum Amsterdam.
At the Lenbachhaus supervised by Dierk Höhne and Stephanie Weber.
Friday, 31. March – Sunday, 10. September 2023