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Berthe Morisot – Camille Claudel – Frida Kahlo


May­be the first and only expe­ri­ence of inde­pen­dence we have is when we’re child­ren. Remem­ber when we used to stag­ger hap­pi­ly away on our own two feet, without nee­ding a sup­por­ting hand? Child­ren don’t know anything about inde­pen­dence, and are the­re­fo­re hap­py. This con­cept accom­pa­nies them throughout the years and it’s only years later, when they lea­ve the fami­ly nest as a teen­ager or go and live in a shared apart­ment or alo­ne, that they rea­li­se what inde­pen­dence means. Final­ly: inde­pen­dence at last! Sup­po­sed­ly, we rejoice becau­se we always depend on some­thing or someo­ne. Man depends on natu­re. Inde­pen­dence is secon­da­ry.

Inde­pen­dent – depen­dent? I lea­ve you with this ques­ti­on, hoping it is food for thought to think about events that hap­pen­ed to you or your acquain­tan­ces.

Ber­t­he Mor­isot, 1841–1895, can be seen as an inde­pen­dent pain­ter due to her well-off and respec­ted fami­ly: howe­ver, her inde­pen­dence only lasts as long as socie­tal con­ven­ti­ons don’t get in the way. She took pri­va­te pain­ting les­sons tog­e­ther with her sis­ter Edma. Bear in mind that the Pari­sian Art Aca­de­my only allo­wed women to stu­dy the­re in 1897. But Ber­t­he was pri­vi­le­ged. During the evenings, her par­ents invi­ted artists around and the­se guests influ­en­ces the two sis­ters: Camil­le Corot beca­me one of their tea­chers, while Mil­let taught them sculp­t­ing, and Edouard Manet, intro­du­ced to them by Fan­tin­la­tour, would repre­sent an important encoun­ter in their life, just as Degas. The ‘inde­pen­dent sis­ters’ could exhi­bit their first pain­tings at the Paris Salon, the start of their pro­fes­sio­nal care­ers as pain­ters. Thanks to the family’s finan­cial inde­pen­dence, Ber­t­he Mor­isot never had to work hard to sell her pic­tures. Yet her inde­pen­dence was limi­ted. For examp­le, Manet asked Ber­t­he to be his model. Decen­cy requi­red her mother to sit with her in the ate­lier, as models would nor­mal­ly also be open to other ser­vices, name­ly sexu­al, for the pain­ters. When her sis­ter Edma mar­ried and moved to Britt­a­ny, Ber­t­he had to give up ano­t­her inde­pen­dence: the pain­ting trips with her sis­ter weren’t pos­si­ble any more. Con­ven­ti­on didn’t allow Ber­t­he to under­ta­ke them on her own. She com­p­lai­ned about the mat­ter in a let­ter to her sis­ter. Ber­t­he Mor­isot is one of the best pain­ters at the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry. Three years befo­re her death, her first big solo exhi­bi­ti­on took place. She was inde­pen­dent finan­cial­ly, yet socie­tal con­ven­ti­ons made her depen­dent.

One of the most important sculp­tors of her time, Camil­le Clau­del, (1864–1943) had an ear­ly start: she star­ted model­ling as a child and, at age 13, decla­red she wan­ted to beco­me a sculp­tor. Her father sup­por­ted her, ensu­ring his 16-year.old daugh­ter is accep­ted at a pri­va­te art school, whe­re fema­le stu­dents are allo­wed, and ren­ting out an apart­ment in Mont­par­nas­se. She now shares an ate­lier with three other women. Inde­pen­dence! Augus­te Rodin beco­mes her tea­cher at the age of 19. Rodin reco­gnis­ed her excep­tio­nal talent and offers for her to come and work with him at his ate­lier. She soon reaches his same mas­te­ry of the art, beco­mes his inspi­ra­ti­on and muse. His favou­rite pupil, 24 years his juni­or, then beca­me his lover. The rela­ti­ons­hip is a com­pli­ca­ted one, Camil­le feels explo­i­ted and, when she beco­mes pregnant, he doesn’t mar­ry her. They sepa­ra­te, and she tri­es to beco­me inde­pen­dent as far as her art is con­cer­ned. This just isn’t fea­si­ble for the artist, now in her mid-30s. She des­troys most of her works of art. After the death of her sup­por­ter, name­ly her father, her bro­ther Paul Clau­del, poet and diplo­mat, and her mother, take her to a psych­iatric cli­nic, whe­re she remains for 30 years until she pas­ses away without ever crea­ting ano­t­her sculp­tu­re.

The third woman I would like to speak about is Mexi­can: Fri­da Kahlo, 1907–1954. I belie­ve her to be the most important Latin Ame­ri­can pain­ter. A woman pos­ses­sing a strong will who, des­pi­te her disa­bi­li­ties (she beca­me sick and never tru­ly reco­ve­r­ed when she was 6 and was invol­ved in a serious road acci­dent when she was 18 which left her a cripp­le) was poli­ti­cal­ly enga­ged, and clai­med her date of birth was 1910, the year of the revo­lu­ti­on. She sup­por­ted Trotz­ki, who escaped to Mexi­co, exi­led by Sta­lin, yet respec­ted Sta­lin, too. Her need for inde­pen­dence resul­ted in her aban­do­ning the Com­mu­nist Par­ty. While hos­pi­ta­li­sed, the 19-year-old starts pain­ting, expres­sing her spi­ri­tu­al and phy­si­cal pain through the medi­um of art. She mar­ries Die­go Rive­ra at the age of 22, Rive­ra 20 years her seni­or and famous for his lar­ger-than­li­fe poli­ti­cal and revo­lu­tio­na­ry murals. They sepa­ra­te after 10 years of mar­ria­ge, only to mar­ry again one year later. Both live their need for inde­pen­dence by having count­less affairs and yet con­ti­nue han­ging on to each other. After the death of Fri­da Kahlo, Die­go Rive­ra says her pic­tures, pre­ser­ved in a muse­um loca­ted in her home­town, Coyoacán, will never lea­ve Mexi­co.

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Jahrgang 1939, Erstausbildung kaufmännische Lehre, anschließend private Gesangsausbildung und kunstgeschichtliche Studien in Leipzig. 1961 erstes Engagement (Bass-Bariton) als Solist am Theater in Eisenach. Nach 12 Jahren an verschiedenen Theatern, 1973 Eröffnung einer Kunstgalerie in Basel. Seitdem im Kunsthandel, als Experte für Versicherungen und Berater privater Sammler tätig. Gleichzeitig und bis heute als Sänger in Oratorium, Kirchenmusik und besonders im Liedgesang aktiv.

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