‘She worked in a terrified state’: the extraordinary life of Charlotte Salomon, who died in Auschwitz
The pioneering German Jewish artist was murdered by the Nazis but her work lives on. The makers of a new biopic, featuring the voices of Keira Knightley and Helen McCrory, explain her enduring appeal In October 1943, shortly before her deportation, the young German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon gave Life? or Theatre? – her monumental series of semi-autobiographical artworks – to a friend for safekeeping. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, aged 26, newly married and pregnant, Salomon was murdered, and it would be many years before Life? or Theatre? would be exhibited. Subtitled Ein Singspiel, a play with music, the work comprises over 700 multilayered gouaches, many with transparent textual overlays. It is considered by some people to be the first graphic novel. Painted between 1940 and 1942, Life? or Theatre? combines historical events and personal memories, referencing film, music and theatre. It tells the story of a traumatic past and a troubled family marked by the suicides of more than one of Salomon’s female relatives, including her mother. There are also hints of sexual abuse, a possible murder committed by her, and accounts of unrequited love. But throughout, there is a conscious blurring of reality and fantasy, with characters presented as fictionalised versions of significant and influential people in Salomon’s life. Continue reading...
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