Monday, 11 February 2019

Elsa Lasker-Schüler (1869 – 1945) – German Poet and Artist

Elsa Lasker-Schüler (1869 – 1945) – German Poet and Artist

The Queen of Expressionism

Elsa was born on 11th February 1869  in Elberfeld, which is now a suburb of Wuppertal, in Germany. Her parents were Aaron Schueler – a banker – and his wife, Jeanette.

In 1894, Elsa married Jonathan Berthold Lasker, who was a doctor.  They settled in Berlin, where Elsa’s first volume of poetry was published in 1902.  Jonathan and Elsa were divorced and in 1903, Elsa married Georg Lewin, a German writer and artist who used the pen-name Herwarth Walden.

Elsa’s poetry collection “Meine Wunder”, published in 1911, established her as the leading female representative of German expressionism.  In 1912,  Elsa formed a close bond with the German poet Gottfried Benn.

Elsa’s son died in 1927.  In 1932, she was awarded the German annual prize for literature - Kleist Prize.  After a short stay in Switzerland, Elsa went to live in Israel in 1934, moving to Jerusalem in 1937.

Elsa died on 22nd January 1945 and was buried in Israel on the Mount of Olives.

Portrait of Elsa by Stanisław Stückgold (1868 – 1933) - Polish painter, born 18th May 1868, Warsaw, Poland, died: 9th January 1933, Paris, France

"The Blue Rider" by Kandinsky, 1903

Elsa’s poem “Als Der Blaue Reiter War Gefallen… (Translation: As the Blue Rider Died…) was a comment upon the death of German impressionist painter and printmaker Franz Marc, who was a member of the expressionist “Blaue Reiter” group of artists – “Blaue Reiter being the title of their magazine.   In 1913, Franz Marc painted a picture called "Tierschicksale", (see below) which seems to predict the slaughter of the First World War.

After Franz Marc's death in March 1916, the following poem was published in “Neue Jugend” Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 11/12, February/March 1917, on page 245.

“Als Der Blaue Reiter War Gefallen…"

Griffen unsere Hände sich wie Ringe:-
Küssten uns wie Brüder auf den Mund.

Harfen wurden unsere Augen,
Als sie weinten: Himmlisches Konzert.

Nun sind unsere Herzen Waisenengel.
Seine tiefgekränkte Gottheit
Ist erloschen in dem Bilde: Tierschicksale.

Translation:  “When the Blue Rider Died”

We joined our hands in shapes of rings:-
And, like brothers, kissed each other on the lips.

Our eyes became harps
Our tears flowed as a heavenly concert.

Now our hearts are orphaned angels.
His deep-drawn godliness
Has been removed from the picture: the fate of the animals.

The Blue Rider Artists (Der Blaue Reiter)

Founded by a number of Russian artists living in Germany - Wassily Kandinsky (left), Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin - and German artists, such as Franz Marc, August Macke and Gabriele Münter. Their idea was that color and form carried concrete spiritual values. The name "Der Blaue Reiter" referred to Kandinsky and Marc's belief that blue was the most spiritual color and that the rider symbolized the ability to move beyond.

Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky (Russian: Васи́лий Васи́льевич Канди́нский, tr. Vasíliy Vasílʹevich Kandínskiy) (16 December [O.S. 4 December] 1866 – 13 December 1944) was a Russian painter

August Macke (3rd January 1887 – 26th September 1914)

August Macke (3 January 1887 – 26 September 1914) was a German Expressionist painter - one of the leading members of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).  He was killed during the First World War on the Western Front in Champagne, France, on 26th September 1914.
August Macke self portrait.

Franz Marc (8th February 1880 – 4th March 1916) - German artist and printmaker, was one of the key figures of German Expressionism and a founding member of the Blue Rider group of artists. Drafted into the German Army as a cavalryman when war broke out, by February 1916, he wasn assigned to a military camouflage unit. He was struck in the head and killed instantly by a shell splinter during the Battle of Verdun in 1916.

Portrait of Franz Marc by August Macke

Gabriele Münter (Berlin, 19 February 1877 – 19 May 1962) was a German expressionist painter.  She studied and lived with the painter Wassily Kandinsky and was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter.

Gabriele Münter portrait by Wassily Kandinsky 1905