Life? or Theatre?
Charlotte Salomon was twenty-three years old in 1940 when she made a painting of her face—a nameless, stateless, Jewish face. At the time, she was living as a refugee from Nazism in Villefranche on the French Riviera, and she had just made a startling discovery: that eight members of her family, one by one, over the years, had committed suicide. With this traumatic revelation in mind, she arrived at what she called “The question: whether to take her own life or to undertake something eccentric and mad.” Something “eccentric and mad” turned out to be an artwork in over seven hundred scenes, painted during one year (1941–1942), enriched by dialogues, soliloquies and musical references..
During a major life crisis the 23-year-old Charlotte Salomon paints the story of her life: Born in Berlin in 1917, she emigrated to her grandparents in the South of France in 1939. When her grandmother committed suicide, Charlotte Salomon learned that her mother had killed herself as well…
Executed in three primary colours, the gouaches read like a series of story boards for a film, following the events of Salomon’s life. The works have been likened to a diary, but her account is fictionalized, with the main characters in Solomon’s life acting as the dramatis personnae. The gouaches speak to the drama of relationships and what it means to be human.