Career Strategies

… Learning from the artist Lotte Laserstein

Beside taking a walk in the park nearby, visiting an art exhibition is a good way to change perspectives. Changing perspectives is one purpose of contemplation (Blog 23 Nov 2018). Frankfurt on Main's Museumsufer with its famous museums is a wonderful area for it. A few days ago I went by bicycle to the Städel Museum, not knowing which of the exhibitions I would visit. I had never heard before about Lotte Laserstein.

Face to Face

Lotte Laserstein's paintings are wonderful. Impressive her portraits, respectful and touching her nudes, serious and insightful her self-portraits. In the end I took a look into the catalogue offered on the bench in the main room of the exhibition and could not stop to read. Thus this blog entry is a book review. If you can not visit the exhibition, consider to buy the catalogue in English or German.

Eiling A, Schroll E (eds). Lotte Laserstein. Face to Face. Munich, Prestel 2018. ISBN 978-3791358239 [DE: Eiling A, Schroll E (Hg.) Lotte Laserstein. Von Angesicht zu Angesicht. ISBN 978-3791358031]

I started with "Our pictures". Kristin Schroeder explains why Lotte Laserstein talked about "our pictures", when she described the work with her favourite model Gertrude ("Traute") Rose (née Kummer).

Put your vocation into effect

"The Art of Becoming Famous with Art" by Kristina Lemke shows, how Lotte Laserstein discovered her vocation as young girl and pursued it. Lotte Laserstein stated, that she would not marry but make a living as an artist. Not easy today and much less one hundred years ago. In 1919 the first women were allowed to enrol at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. Lotte Laserstein was one of them. She was always proud of her classical and profound education. After getting her degree as one of the best she started her career deliberately. She based it upon her own art school for painting and drawing, took part in art competitions and was active and committed in professional associations, like the Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen (association of female artists in Berlin).


Like so many others Lotte Laserstein suffered form the Nazi Regime. She could escape. An invitation from a Swedish gallery in 1937 and the support of her decade-long friend Traute Rose afforded to bring many of her paintings to Sweden. Of course she suffered. Her mother was killed by the Nazis in a concentration camp. Her sister was traumatized after living in the underground for several years. And Lotte Laserstein experienced the inner conflict of an emigrate, belonging not to the country that hosted her and not to the country of her origin. Maureen Ogrocki delineates in "A New Life in Emigration. The Swedish Years", how Lotte Laserstein again built a professional network, this time with the Jewish community and contacts to - as Ogrocki describes it on page 160 - the "who's who of society". Nevertheless Lotte Laserstein's work changed. She had to follow economical constraints. Her pictures became lighter. The contact to the model was not as close as for instance to Traute, but Lotte Laserstein found a way to express herself in her self-portraits.

The important role of art

During the "Roaring Twenties" many people and in the end whole nations suffered from political upheavals and economical severities that resulted in the world economic crisis. The government in Prussia engaged itself at that time in supporting art. It provided social funds, bought art for public buildings, promoted art education in schools and supported exhibitions. Elena Schroll describes in "From the Limelight to the Sidelines. Lotte Laserstein - A Painter of the Forgotten Generation" the motivation [p 33]:


The shock of the lost world war and the transition from the Wilhemine monarchy to unfamiliar governance led to uncertainty, pessimism and a lack of orientation among large parts of the population. As the cultural historian Kristina Kratz-Kessemeier set forth, the government of the new republic understood art "as an essential aspect of of the search for national identity."


Elena Schroll delineates, how the historical, economical and political developments affected Lotte Laserstein's life and work, and why she belongs to the "Forgotten Generation". It is wonderful to see that art historians and the public become more and more aware of this generation.


Learning from artists

We may not face an economical crisis, but we face an environmental disaster. (I do not write crisis, because a crisis is time-limited. If we proceed in poisoning this planet, it will become a disaster. Earth will heal, but we and many other creatures won't.)

Exhibitions and the work of artists, art historians and museums offer us insights how previous generations faced challenges. Perhaps we can take this as a gift and inspiration.

Christa Weßel - 30 Nov 2018
[CW 01.12.2018: Section "The important role of art" adapted.]


Further Readings

During studying the catalogue I visited several websites and invite you especially to visit the Städelblog (in German), the Leicester's German Expressionist Collection with the section "Learning"  and the webinar "Art History Online – The Städel Course on Modern Art". You find the links and other sources below.


Lotte Laserstein - The Städel Exhibition

  • Eiling A, Schroll E (eds). Lotte Laserstein. Face to Face. Munich, Prestel 2018. ISBN 978-3791358239 [DE: Eiling A, Schroll E (Hg.) Lotte Laserstein. Von Angesicht zu Angesicht. ISBN 978-3791358031]

More about Lotte Laserstein and her time

Visiting and Learning about Art online

Blog sections Book & Film Reviews (because I reflect on the catalogue) and Organization Development (because it is also about professionals' career and private und public commitment) and Higher Education (because I would like to visit an exhibition not only with coaching clients but also with classes)

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