Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Impact of the Nazi Regime on Women Artists - German Anita Ree 1885-1933



Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Self Portrait

Anita Rée was born in Hamburg, Germany, into a family of Jewish shipping merchants. She was the younger of two daughters. Her Venezuelan mother was half Jewish with Indian ancestry. Ree studied painting in Germany under Arthur Siebelist, & spent 6 months in Paris taking lessons with Fernand Léger.

Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Self Portrait

In 1913, she started working as an artist living at home in Hamburg; but after her father died in 1916, she experenced financial difficulties. In 1919, she became a founding member of the avant-garde Hamburgische Sezession group & remained a member until her death, regularly exhibiting with the group. From 1922 until 1925, she lived in Positano, Italy.

Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Self Portrait 1915

After her return to Germany, her paintings were in demand, but the political climate was changing. Lonely & fearing persecution because of her Jewish ancestry, she grew increasingly depressed at the disbanding of the Hamburg Secession. In the summer of 1932, Anita Rèe decided to leave Hamburg to take refuge on the island of Sylt (a North Sea island off the mainland where Germany borders Denmark). She lived there in unheated rooms, alone, and constantly worried she did not have enough money to survive. She considered fleeing abroad but was afraid she did not have enough money for such a plan.

Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Half Nude before Prickly Pear 1922-25

Works of art by the Secessionists & many other artists were classified by the Nazis as "entartete Kunst" (degenerate art). Anita Ree, Alma del Banco, Willy Davidson, Kurt Löwengard, & Gretchen Wohlwill were the most renown of the Jewish artists who were members of the avant-garde "Sezession" group.

Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Portrait of  Hildegard Heise

Ree was increasingly worried by German political developments in 1933, & felt she could not survive in that culture. In December of 1933, she committed suicide by taking poison. She wrote to a friend, "I can no longer live in such a world and have no other wish than to depart that to which I no longer belong ..."

Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Self Portrait 1929

In 1937, the Nazi's used 16 pieces of her work for their Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition. Nearly forgotten, an exhibition in 1987 brought her work back into the public eye. She is now considered the one of the most famous of the Hamburg Secessionists.

Anita Ree (German artist, 1885-1933) Self Portrait 1932

See the impact of the Nazi Regime on other artists here.