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Charlotte Salomon: Life or Theatre?

Charlotte Salomon: Life or Theatre?

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A Selection of 450 Gouaches

When German artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943) handed her gouache series Life? or Theatre? to a friend, she beseeched him to "take good care of it, it is my entire life." A few months later, 26 year old Charlotte was deported to Auschwitz, where she was put to death shortly after her arrival.

The work Salomon left behind is, in a very real sense, her "cathartic" masterpiece.  Her cycle of gouaches combines creative energy with a pioneering personal narrative that spans all facets of her existence: Charlotte's complicated family life marked by the suicides of nearly all of her female relatives, her youth in Berlin, her close relation to singing teacher Alfred Wolfson, the rise of the Nazis, her exile in France in 1939. Throughout, the artist challenges these destructive forces by deploying playful pseudonyms and fantastical elements alongside emotional candour, remarkable observation, and a meticulous visual memory.

Without comparison, Charlotte's gouaches are a triumph of personal truth and individual expression.  Published here with a selection of the 450 most important pieces, Life? or Theatre? is an unrivalled magnum opus from a great and ambitious artist, overshadowed by her early death, but luminous with her precision, her lyricism, and her courage.