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First female nude self-portrait

Posted February. 03, 2022 07:47,   

Updated February. 03, 2022 07:47


A seemingly pregnant woman is posing naked. She has a white cloth wrapped around her hips and is wearing an amber necklace against her bare chest. Although it is easy to find nude portrait pictures of pregnant women or people showing off their figures lately, this painting was made in the early 20th century and the model in the painting is the painter herself. Who was she to have made such a bold self-portrait?

Her name was Paula Modersohn-Becker who was brave enough to paint a nude self-portrait during a time when women were not allowed to take professional art training and nude portraits were banned. She was born in Dresden in 1876 and grew up in Bremen, taking private classes and dreaming of becoming a painter. She joined the artists' circle of Worpswede near Bremen before moving to Paris for further training in 1900. She returned to Germany the next year and married Otto Modersohn, a fellow painter who lost his wife, raising his young daughter.

In early 1906, Modersohn-Becker decided to permanently leave the artists’ circle and her husband because she wanted to focus solely on art alone in Paris. Her bold self-portrait was painted in the spring of 1906 in Paris when she was 30. Her big eyes gaze at viewers outside the painting. Her left hand holds the white cloth and her right hand is placed on her belly. Even though she is posing like a pregnant woman, she wasn’t in fact. It was perhaps the seed of creativity that was growing in her belly. In fact, Modersohn-Becker produced her most innovative works during the time.

Loneliness and poverty might have been too much for her. She returned to her husband in 1907. She became pregnant soon after and gave birth to a daughter in November 1907. However, their joy was short-lived and she passed away 19 days later from a postpartum embolism. The painter who made the first female nude self-portrait and produced many groundbreaking pieces from an independent view of a woman seemed to be forgotten in history. Fortunately, a museum named after her opened in 1927 as the world’s first museum to honor a female painter.