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A young girl in a colorful long dress blows a flute as she walks through a forest. A young girl in a colorful long dress blows a flute as she walks through a forest.

Paula Modersohn-Becker: I Am Me



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During her short life, Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907) radically charted her own path, exploring the intimate and singular aspects of the feminine experience in a bold style that foreshadowed Expressionism.

Her most striking works—among the more than 700 paintings, roughly 1,400 drawings, and eleven prints made across only 10 years—are frank portrayals of childhood and images of the lived bodily experience of motherhood, pregnancy, and old age. Modersohn-Becker is especially acclaimed for her many self-portraits, including the first nude self-portraits known to have been made by a woman. Beyond subject matter, her innovative style, which emphasized expression over representation, placed her at the forefront of experimental art in Europe at the turn of the century.

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Self-Portrait with Two Flowers in Her Raised Left Hand (Selbstbildnis mit zwei Blumen in der erhobenen linken Hand), 1907

Paula Modersohn-Becker. Jointly owned by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Debra and Leon Black, and Neue Galerie New York, Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder

Despite her importance to art history and her posthumous place as a feminist icon, Modersohn-Becker has never been the subject of a museum retrospective in the United States. This exhibition marks her first full-scale museum presentation in this country. Showing the full range of her achievement over her career, tragically cut short by a postpartum embolism, the display includes more than 50 paintings, 15 large-scale drawings, and five etchings. Modersohn-Becker’s style evolved rapidly as she approached subjects such as figure drawing, landscape, still-life, and highly original figure paintings and nudes, many of which reflect an unconventional view of women.

A young girl in a colorful long dress blows a flute as she walks through a forest.

 Girl Blowing a Flute in the Birch Forest, 1905

 Paula Modersohn-Becker. Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen

Together these works, and the exhibition’s title, which comes from one of Modersohn-Becker’s letters, show an artist deeply invested in both artistic and personal expression and self-determination. “I Am Me,” she wrote. “And hope to become that more and more.”

Paula Modersohn-Becker: I Am Me is curated by Jay A. Clarke, Rothman Family Curator of Prints and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago, and Jill Lloyd, independent scholar, Neue Galerie New York.

This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and Neue Galerie New York. We are grateful to the Paula Modersohn-Becker Foundation and Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen for their partnership and collaboration.


Support for Paula Modersohn-Becker: I Am Me is provided by an anonymous donor.

Members of the Luminary Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming. The Luminary Trust includes an anonymous donor, Karen Gray-Krehbiel and John Krehbiel, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Josef and Margot Lakonishok, Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff, Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel, Cari and Michael J. Sacks, and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.


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