Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Joys of Bremen: Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler and Gustav Szathmary

Just spent the weekend in Bremen on some travel industry related junket. You wouldn't think that a wet weekend in Bremen had much to recommend it. You'd be wrong. Bremen (about an hour south of Hamburg and an hour north of Hannover)is a city of about 650,000 people with a pretty decent football team (Werder Bremen), a great wooded park in the City Centre (Burger Park), a spectacular C16 Town Hall, and--best of all--a couple of very good art museums. The most interesting of these two museums is the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum in Bottcherstrasse--a passageway off the Marktplatz. Most of the paintings are those of Paula Modersohn Becker herself. These are fine, if a bit derivative. Much more interesting are the paintings and drawings of Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler (1899-1940) and the photographs of Gustav Szathmary (who was Modersohn Becker's lover). Chris Bertram has, I see, written something interesting and valuable about Szathmary. But Lohse Wächtler is equally deserving of more attention, particularly if you are interested in German expressionism. Many of her drawings--some graphically sexual in nature--focus on the life of prostitutes in Hamburg's red-light district. Lohse Wächtler led a brief and tragic life. Throughout the 1930's, she was in and out of psychiatric hospital. She was forcibly sterilized in 1935 and in 1940 was murdered by the Nazis in their "T4" euthanasia program. Her work remains on display at the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum until April 3 2005. It's well worth a visit.

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