Reading Charlotte Salomon

Front Cover
Michael P. Steinberg, Monica Bohm-Duchen
Cornell University Press, 2006 - Art - 233 pages

Charlotte Salomon was born in Berlin in 1917 and was murdered at Auschwitz at the age of twenty-six. While in exile in the south of France from 1940 until her deportation in 1943, she created some 1,325 small gouaches using only the three primary colors plus white. From these she gathered nearly 800 into a work that she titled Life? or Theater?: A Play with Music, which employs images, texts, and musical and cinematic references. The narrative, informed by Salomon's experiences as a talented, cultured, and assimilated German Jew, depicts a life lived in the shadow of Nazi persecution and a family history of suicide, but also reveals moments of intense happiness and hope. The tone of the gouaches becomes increasingly raw and urgent as Salomon is further enmeshed in grim personal as well as political events. The result is a deeply moving meditation on life, art, and death on the eve of the Holocaust.Salomon's art, discovered after the war in the south of France where she had left it for safekeeping, was first exhibited in 1961 and has gained steadily in reputation since then. A major exhibition focused on Life? or Theater? appeared at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1998, subsequently at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Jewish Museum in New York City. This book, lavishly illustrated with many color plates, is the first to analyze Salomon's work critically, historically, and aesthetically. It includes a chronology of Salomon's life and a list of exhibitions of Life? or Theater? Featuring contributions from prominent art historians, literary and cultural critics, and historians, Reading Charlotte Salomon celebrates the genius and courage of a remarkable figure in twentieth-century art.

Contributors: Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam; Monica Bohm-Duchen, independent art historian, London; Darcy Buerkle, Smith College; Christine Conley, University of Ottawa; Mary Felstiner, San Francisco State University; Reesa Greenberg, Concordia University and York University; Shelley Hornstein, York University; Griselda Pollock, University of Leeds; Nanette Salomon, The College of Staten Island/CUNY; Astrid Schmetterling, University of London; Michael P. Steinberg, Cornell University; Edward Timms, University of Sussex; Ernst van Alphen, University of California, Berkeley, and Leiden University

 

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Contents

Reading Charlotte Salomon History Memory Modernism
1
A Life before Auschwitz
21
Theater of Memory Trauma and Cure
34
Historical Effacements Facing Charlotte Salomon
73
Memory and Trauerspiel Charlotte Salomon
88
Creative Synergies Charlotte Salomon and Alfred Wolfsohn
105
Giving Voice Charlotte Salomon and Charlotte Delbo
114
Ornament Boundaries and Mourning after Auschwitz
126
Inscriptions of Difference in Charlotte Salomons Work
140
The Aesthetics of Trauma Five Installations of Charlotte Salomons Life? or Theater?
148
Aestheticizing Catastrophe
167
Create Her World Anew Seven Dilemmas
194
On the Impossibility of Charlotte Salomon in the Classroom
212
Copyright

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About the author (2006)

Michael P. Steinberg is Director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities and Professor of History and Music at Brown University. He is the author of Austria as Theater and Ideology: The Meaning of the Salzburg Festival; Walter Benjamin and the Demands of History (both from Cornell); and Listening to Reason: Culture, Subjectivity, and Nineteenth-Century Music.

Monica Bohm-Duchen is an independent writer, lecturer, and curator. Her many books include The Private Life of a Masterpiece and Chagall. Exhibitions she has curated include After Auschwitz: Responses to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Rubies and Rebels: Jewish Female Identity in Contemporary British Art. She was co-curator of Life? Or Theatre?: The Work of Charlotte Salomon (Royal Academy of Arts, London).

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