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Old Peasant Woman, ca. 1905

  • Paula Modersohn-Becker, German, 1876-1907

Oil on canvas

  • Unframed: 29 3/4 × 22 3/4 inches (75.6 × 57.8 cm)
  • 34 5/8 × 27 1/4 × 3 7/16 inches (87.9 × 69.2 × 8.7 cm)

Gift of Robert H. Tannahill


On View

  • Modern N230


European Modern Art to 1950

Attracted by the simplicity of rural life in the village of Worpswede (near Bremen), Modersohn-Becker began a series of paintings of peasants from the area. This image of an old woman is given dignity by the reduction of the subject to simplified large forms and by the harmony of color, to reveal the inner meaning of her subject. Her gesture, traditionally used in depictions of the Annunciation as Mary’s acceptance of her role, here can be interpreted as the old woman’s recognition of her place in the cycle of human life and is underscored by the flowers in her lap.

Inscribed, on verso: Dieses Bild ist ein Original von Paula Modersohn-Becker | Otto Modersohn

1919-August 21, 1937, Kunsthalle Hamburg (Hamburg, Germany)

August 21, 1937, confiscated by the German Reich (Deutsches Reich)/The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), Berlin, Germany as “degenerate art"

June 3, 1939, consigned to (Buch- und Kunsthandlung Karl Buchholz, Berlin, Germany)

by 1939, transferred to (Curt Valentin, Buchholz Gallery, New York, New York, USA)

1939-1958, purchased by Robert H. Tannahill [1893-1969] (Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, USA)

1958-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Stoermer, C.P. Becker-Modersohn. 1913, no. 71, (ill.). Pauli, G. Paula Modersohn-Becker. 1919, no. 38 (pl. 12). [dated as 1906-1907] Pauli, G. Fuher Durch die Galerie der Kunsthalle Zu Hamburg. 1924, p. 201 (ill.). Pauli, G. Katalog der Neuren Meister. Hamburg, 1927, no. 1955. Paula Modersohn-Becker. Exh. cat., Kestner-Gesellschaft. Hanover, 1934, no. 152. Westheim, P. Histoire de l'Art Contemporain. Paris, 1935, p. 430 (pl. 558). Art News (April 13, 1940): p. 15 (ill.). Magazine of Art 33 (April 1940): p 233 (ill.). Landmarks in Modern German Art. Exh. cat., Buchholz Gallery. New York, 1940, no. 16. Cheney, S. The Story of Modern Art. New York, 1947, p. 401 (ill.). Myers, B. Modern Art in the Making. New York, 1950, p. 334, no. 171 (ill.). German Art of the 20th Century. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1957, no. 128. Bulletin of the DIA 39, 1 (1959-1960): pp. 20-21 (ill.). Oppler, E.C. "Paula Modersohn-Becker: Some Facts and Legends." Art Journal 35 (1976): p. 364. Harris, A.S. and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists 1550-1950. Los Angeles, 1976, p. 277, no. 117 (ill.). Radycki, J.D. The Letters and Journals of Paula Modersohn-Becker. Metuchen, New Jersey, 1980, p. 174 (ill.). Uhr, H. Masterpieces of German Expressionism at the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1982, p. 160 (ill.). 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, p. 17 (fig. 11). Scheurmann, Ingrid. "Das neu Menschenbild immitten der Landschaft -- Paula Modersohn-Beckker und die Worpsweder Kunstlerkolonie." ReisenZeiten: streifzuge durch die deutsche Kulturlandschaft. Bonn, 1996, pp. 357-389 (ill.). Paula Modersohn-Becker und die Kunst in paris um 1900 -- Von Cezanne bis Picasso. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Bremen. Bremen, 2007, pp. 181, 204, 232 (ill.). Kelly, Simon and Maite van Dijk, eds. Jean-Francois Millet: Sowing the Seeds of Modern Art. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum and St. Louis Art Museum. Amsterdam, 2019, p. 173, cat. 177 (ill.), p. 203. Greenberger, Alex. 5 Works to Know by Paula Modersohn-Becker, the 'First Modern Woman Artist'. (January 14, 2022). [accessed on 1/18/2022].

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Old Peasant Woman, ca. 1905, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Robert H. Tannahill, 58.385.