Monday, June 7, 2010

Lotte Laserstein

Lotte Laserstein (1898-1993) was born in Prussia in 1898. After the death of her father in 1902, Laserstein moved with her family to Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland. By the age of 5, she had decided to become a painter and remain unmarried( Laserstein married in 1938 at obtain Swedish citizenship, but never lived with her husband). In 1912, her family moved to Berlin, where Laserstein received her initial art training at a school run by her aunt. 

 Lotte Laserstein, Motocycliste, 1929

From 1919 to 1925, she became one of the few female students to be accepted into the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts where she became an accomplished realist painter under the training of Erich Wolfsfeld. In her last year of schooling, Laserstein became the first woman to win the Academy’s gold medal for artwork. After graduating, Laserstein started teaching at a gallery she acquired in Berlin. To boost her income during a difficult inflation period, Laserstein began making decorative art and illustrating anatomy texts from preserved cadavers. In 1931, she had her first solo show at Fritz Gurlitt’s Gallery in Berlin.

 Lotte Laserstein, Evening in Potsdam, 1930

It was at this point in Laserstein’s career that the rise of Nazism began to affect her daily life. Her paternal grandmother was Jewish and her mother’s apartment and many valuables, including a collection of rare Toulouse-Lautrec posters, were confiscated by the state. Artistic supplies became hard to find and in 1935, Laserstein was forced to close her gallery and art school in Berlin, ending her career in Germany. Three of her paintings were shown at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, but her work was banned from the German pavilion. In December of 1937, Laserstein left Germany for Stockholm in search of an art market, while her sister and mother stayed behind in Berlin. Her sister managed to evade the Nazis, but her mother died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany.

 Lotte Laserstein, Morning Toilette, 1930

After the war, Laserstein continued to paint, but changed her subject matter to be less offensive. She remained in Sweden for the remainder of her life, moving in 1954 to Kalmar, where she was later joined by her sister. She also became an honorary member of the Swedish Academy of Arts for her work in portraiture. In the late 1980s, Belgrave Gallery and Agnew and Sons in London held retrospectives of her work, followed by an exhibition at the Stadtmuseum in Berlin a few years later. The artist passed away in 1993 at the age of 95 in Kalmar.

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