Ulrika Knutson: ‘Paula Modersohn-Becker was the first woman painter to paint herself in nude’


Marie Darrieussecq the French writer was in Gothenburg to launch and talk about her latest book on the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker (born in 1876 and died in 1907 the year Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born).

At Stadsbiblioteket the central library of Gothenburg, Marie was introduced to the audience by the local journalist of national recognition Ulrika Knutson.

Ulrika Knutson said that Marie Darrieussecq is ’an interesting novelist in her own right. But this time she is here to talk about her new book which is a short biography of the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becket’. She explained the significance of the German painter and what Marie did to bring the painter into limelight. “This (Härligt är att leva här) is a literary biography about Paula Modersohn-Becker who lived in Germany more than a hundred years ago. She is one of the first women nudists in Europe. She was the first woman painter to paint herself in nude like this – she is pregnant, she is expecting her first child. And she is famous in Germany but Marie who is from France said that when she first studied books of Paula Modersohn-Becker she did not know about her at all. She was totally unknown in France but Marie helped her to become famous with this book.”

Marie spoke about the life and times of Paula Modersohn-Becker who is regarded as early painter of expressionism and as the first female artist to paint a nude portrait of herself. With her paintings she alluded to her life, her body, her thoughts and her matrimony. The title of biography in Swedish is ‘Härligt är att leva här: Paula M. Beckers liv av Marie Darrieussecq’ published by Norstedts. And, in English it is titled as ‘Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker’.

Marie is acclaimed for her novels, and she has written 15 novels in her 22 years of career in writing referring to various aspects of life and also about women. She said that is she fascinated with the life of Paula Modersohn-Becker and wanted to bring her artistic life to wider audience in Europe and that resulted in writing a biography.

Marie Darrieussecq was born in 1969 in the French Basque Country and made her debut in 1996. She has since come out with numerous acclaimed novels and essays and translated into thirty languages.

Ulrika is a noted writer, broadcaster, chronicler and journalist of Sweden based in Gothenburg. She informed that apart from the biography on Paula Modersohn-Becker, there is an exhibition of her paintings at Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde museum at Djurgården in Stockholm. Alongside Paula’s paintings, there are paintings of ‘of the artist colony in Worpswede around 1900, comprising, soulful landscapes, sensitive renderings of the impoverished north-German peasant population, portraits, and evocative scenes from stories and myths’. The exhibition is titled as ‘Paula Modersohn-Becker and the Worpswede Artists’ Colony’ from 15 September, 2018 – 27 January, 2019.