In Episode 19 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews one of the most important painters in the world, CHANTAL JOFFE on the great artist CHARLOTTE SALOMON!
And WOW was it amazing to interview Chantal in her London studio on Charlotte Salomon, the Jewish-born German artist who created one of the most important and powerful artworks of the 20th century, "Life? or Theatre?", which is currently on view at the Jewish Museum here in London: https://jewishmuseum.org.uk/exhibitions/charlotte-salomon/
Created between the years of 1941–43 when the young Salomon was living in Nice having escaped Berlin, "Life? or Theatre?" is a dramatised autobiography that uses sound, text, simple language, images, and music to give expression of Salomon’s struggle living in Berlin in the 1930s, and her experience during the war.
It is the MOST moving, incredible, heartbreaking 'graphic novel' compiled of 769 small gouaches on paper which Salomon created when in hiding from Nazi oppressors.
The work is essentially a self portrait; storyboard; or intimate visual narrative of the artist’s existence: from a complicated family life, growing up in Berlin, the rise of the Nazis, to her exile to France, and to what ultimately led to her impending fate: age 26, five months pregnant, in Auschwitz.
This challenging masterpiece tells the story of her life, with death looming from the start. In pre-first world war Berlin, a young woman called Charlotte – the artist’s aunt who she’s named after – drowns herself, and as the story unfolds, we discover many more mental health issues and sadness in the artist’s family. But Charlotte carries on, as if always seeing the positive in this ever glooming light which seems madness to even be seen as real life, as emphasised by its title.
Chantal speaks so beautifully in this episode, enlightening us about Charlotte and her experience visiting this week. Placing a particular emphasis on the redemptive power of art. When I asked Chantal why she thought the young Salomon created "Life? or Theatre?", she responded: "She just had no choice and the minute she's picked up, brush, she was safe. Suddenly it saved her and that's why we see such speed is in those drawings".
Thank you for listening!!
This episode is sponsored by the National Art Pass and the Affordable Art Fair!
To receive a free tote bag with your National Art Pass, enter the code GREAT at checkout!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Amber Miller (@amber_m.iller)
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield