Lotte Laserstein, a German Painter Who Lived Through the Weimar Years as an Independent Artist in Berlin, Explored Urban Tensions of Modern Germany

Born in then Prussia, in 1898, she was one of the first female students to study at the Berlin Academy, and excelled. She captured her subjects with meticulous realism and weighty, breathable bodies. In 1925 she won the Academy’s Gold Medal, and after leaving the Academy in 1927, set up her own studio in Berlin.


Russian Girl with Compact, 1928.

She exhibited at museums all over the continent. In 1931 she held her first solo exhibition at Gurlitt’s, Berlin, with her groundbreaking portraits (like so many of her incredible female contemporaries of the Weimar era) who broke down gender conventions, embraced androgyny, captured the female nude in full glory. 


Self Portrait with a Cat, 1923.

They were deemed as the “new woman” (see Jeanne Mammen or Anita Rée). Laserstein was set for stardom.


Morning Toilette, 1930.

But everything soon changed. In 1934 labelled under new Nazi racial laws as ‘Three quarters Jewish’, Laserstein was barred from exhibiting in public and in 1935 was forced to abandon her studio.


At the Mirror, 1930-31.

During this time the Nazis seized over 15,000 works, which they destroyed, hid or banned from public view. And deemed ‘degenerate’. Cruelly hanging them in exhibitions for the purpose of being mocked.


Selbstportrait in Schwarz, 1928.

Finally in 1937, she emigrated to Sweden, just as her work began receiving critical acclaim, with two paintings hung in the 1937 Salon in Paris and an exhibition the same year at the Galerie Moderne in Stockholm.


Self portrait with a friend, undated.

The Weimar era produced the most incredible array of female artist who embraced queer culture and the independence of the ‘new woman’ (their right to the vote in 1919 had encouraged a decade of radical making).


Evening Over Potsdam, 1928.

Wow, might history have been different.


Evening Over Potsdam, 1928, (detail).

Thank you to these women who paved the way, and how, how, did history forget them? Let’s give them the recognition they deserve.


Lotte Laserstein painting Evening over Potsdam, photograph by Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski, 1930.

By Katy Hessel, reposted from
@TheGreatWomenArtists