Paula Modersohn-Becker

Paris at the turn of the century was the artistic capital of the world. Some of the best known paintings in the world were housed in Paris' great museum, the Louvre. New art school flourished. Older art schools, such as the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, began to admit women students. Master artists such as Rodin were featured in many gallery exhibitions. And the new painters -- the so-called avant-garde -- were trying out different techniques and ways of portraying what they saw. No wonder artists throughout the world thought Paris was the place to be.

Picasso was one of the artists who was drawn to Paris. Paula Modersohn-Becker was another.

On New Year's Eve, 1900, Paula Modersohn-Becker left her native Germany for the City of Lightsn She was 24 years old. She had just spent two years at an artist's colony in Worpswede in Northern Germany. The colony's artists -- which included her soon-to-be husband Otto Modersohn -- used the local farmers and the rustic settings near the colony as the background for much of their paintings. At first, Modersohn-Becker did too.

But Paris opened her eyes to artists such as Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, and all the wonderful ways in which they looked at the world. She began to employ some of their techniques -- such as the use of simplified shapes and heavily-outlined figures. But, as does every artist, she made them her own.

Modersohn-Becker kept a journal during most of her life. Together with her letters to her family, they give us an fascinating picture of what it must have been like to be in Paris at such an interesting time in art history. Becker did marry Otto Modersohn in 1901, but she still continued to come to back to Paris. After her last visit in 1906 - 1907, she returned to Worpswede and her husband. In November, her daughter Mathilde was born. Three weeks later she died from a heart attack.

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