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Jeanne Mammen, "Two Women Dancing"

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Jeanne Mammen (1890 – 1976) was a German painter and illustrator of the Weimar period. Her work is associated with the New Objectivity and Symbolism movements. She is best known for her depictions of strong, sensual women and Berlin city life.

Jeanne Mammen was born in Berlin, the daughter of a successful German merchant. She and her family moved to Paris when she was five years old. She studied art in Paris, Brussels and Rome from 1906-1911. Her early work, influenced by Symbolism, Art Nouveau, and the Decadent movement, was exhibited in Brussels and Paris in 1912 and 1913.

In 1916 she and her family fled Paris to avoid internment during World War I. While her parents moved to Amsterdam, Mammen chose instead to return to Berlin. She was now financially on her own for the first time, as the French government had confiscated all of her family's property. For several years Mammen struggled to make ends meet, taking any work she could find, and spending time with people from different class backgrounds. These experiences and newfound sympathies are reflected in her artwork from the period.

In time she was able to find work as a commercial artist, producing fashion plates, movie posters, and caricatures for satirical journals such as Simplicissimus, Ulk, and Jugend. In the mid-1920s she became known for her illustrations evoking the urban atmosphere of Berlin. Much of her artwork depicted women. These women subjects often included haughty socialites, fashionable middle-class shop girls, street singers, and prostitutes. Her drawings were often compared to those of George Grosz and Otto Dix. Throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s she worked mainly in pencil with watercolor washes, and in pen and ink.

In 1921, Mammen moved into an apartment with her sister in Berlin. This apartment was a former photographer's studio which she lived in until her death. Aside from Art throughout her life Mammen also was interested in science. She was close friends with Max Delbrück who left Europe and took some of her artwork with him and exhibited them in California. In addition to bringing these art works to be exhibited he also sent Mammen care packages from the United States with art supplies.

In 1930 she had a major exhibition in the Fritz Gurlitt gallery. Over the next two years, at Gurlitt's suggestion, she created one of her most important works: a series of eight lithographs illustrating Les Chansons de Bilitis, a collection of lesbian love poems by Pierre Louÿs.

In 1933, following her inclusion in an exhibition of female artists in Berlin, the Nazi authorities denounced her motifs and subjects as "Jewish", and banned her lithographs for Les Chansons de Bilitis. The Nazis were also opposed to her blatant disregard to for apparent 'appropriate' female submissiveness in her expressions of her subjects. Much of her work also includes imagery of lesbians. The Nazis shut down most of the journals she had worked for, and she refused to work for those that complied with their cultural policies. Until the end of the war she practiced a kind of "inner emigration". She stopped exhibiting her work and focused on advertising. For a time she also peddled second-hand books from a handcart.

In the 1940s, in a show of solidarity, she began experimenting with Cubism and expressionism, a risky move given the Nazis' condemnation of abstract art as "degenerate". After the war she took to collecting wires, string, and other materials from the streets of bombed-out Berlin to create reliefs. In the late 1940s she began exhibiting her work again, as well as designing sets for the Die Badewanne cabaret. She created abstract collages from various materials, including candy wrappers. In the 1950s she adopted a new style, combining thick layers of oil paint with a few fine marks on the surface.
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@eleanor_de. Lovely, thanks for passing that on.


I took a look myself - no biography, no memoir (she was probably too busy painting), just a few articles in art magazines. I have to think, with her artistic output, and her larger than life story...if she had been a male artist, there would be a book!
Anyway, I found one article that I could access:


@eleanor-de. Sadly not.


Thank you for posting all these Mammen pieces! She had a bit of a renaissance in 1980s Berlin (too late for her to enjoy, sadly), but I did not know much of her life history, and it is so extraordinary! Have you come across a biography, by any chance? Thank you very much again!

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