“Female artist of Avantgarde”
I first learned about Anita Rée at an exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle in Germany.
Hamburger Kunsthalle is almost right next to the central station in Hamburg and if you have some hours to spend in Hamburg I really recommend going there…
I went to see the exhibition “Female artists of Avantgarde in Hamburg 1890 – 1933 part I” in 2006. It was an exhibition focusing on the female artists living in Hamburg during this time, their lives and their art.
It was really an exciting exhibition and Anita Rées paintings kind of captured my eye. I can’t explain what it was, but there was something that spoke to me… Some sorrow, some sensitivity, something that seemed to say “See me!” I’m not an art expert so I look for soemthing that touches me in a way when I look at art.
During the years there’s been much focus on Anita Rees suicide and if you could “find signs of what going happen” in her pictures from the 20-ties and 30-ties. To see her work from this point of view might be a bit narrow.
Antia Rée was born February, 9th 1855. She was the second child of the merchant Rée Israel and Clara née Hahn. The Hamburg line of long-established Jewish family for generations dealt mainly with grains and East Indian goods.
Anita and her sister Emily were baptized Evangelical Lutheran and confirmed. The Protestant dominated education in the home assimilated according to the time followed by appropriate education as “higher daughters.”
From 1905 Anita took lessons in painting at the Hamburg artist Arthur Siebelist. She was assailed by self-doubt regarding her career and seek advice from 1906 Max Liebermann in Berlin. He recognized her talent and advised her to continue her education as a painter.
Since there wasn’t any regular art academy in Hamburg yet, Anita continued to take lesson from Siebelist until 1910. After that she joined Franz Nölken and Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann in a studio community. The friendship was broken due to Rée unrequited love to Nölken.
Anita studied at Fernand Leger in Paris during the winter 1912/13. She learned nude life drawing, which would have lead to a scandal for women in Germany. There’re also influences of Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne in her work. In 1913 she took part in a first exhibition at Commeter in Hamburg. In 1914 she got to know the poet Richard Dehmel.
In the following years she gained recognition through their portraits.
1919 was Rée founding member of group of artists in Hamburg Secession and got great attention in the following shows. She met with artists such as Gretchen Wohlwill, Alma Bank and Franz Radziwill.
From 1922 to 1925 Rée lived mainly in Positano at the Italian Amalfi coast and turned to “the New Objectivity”. During this time she was friends with the bookseller and painter Christian Selle. She only returned to Hamburg for exhibitions.
She moved back to Hamburg in 1926. The same year she was a founding member of GEDOK with Ida Dehmel. GEDOK stands for community of German and Austrian women artists of all artgenre.
1929 and 1931, she painted two large murals at Fritz Schumacher newly built schools and won high praise.
The mural “Orpheus with animals” in the former high school for girls at the Caspar-Voght-Straße (OCV) in Hamm, today ballet school of Hamburg Ballet, was preserved after it was liberated during the conversion work in the late 1980s. It’s the only one that is preserved.
In 1930 she received an order to create the Ansgar triptych for the construction of St. Ansgar’s Church in Hamburg-Long Horn. The community was not satisfied with the designs and 1932 the order was permanently withdrawn of “cultic concerns”. Rée became denounced as a Jew by the NSDAP in 1930.
Anita left Hamburg in 1932 and moved to the island Sylt. On April, 25th 1933 she was excluded as “foreign member” by the Hamburg Institute of artistry.
Rée was isolated by the hostility and personal disappointment for some time and all of this drove her to take her own life on December 12th December 1933.
August, 7th 2007 a Stumbling Block was laid on Sylt as a memory to her. Another obstacle in the road Fontenay reminds of Rées last place of residence in Hamburg.
Book: „Künstlerinnen der Avantgarde in Hamburg zwischen 1890 and 1933“ Band 1
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hachmannedition
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