Charlotte Salomon (1917-43) Documenta

25 Jan

At Documenta in 2012, the most interesting piece I came across was this historical oddity by Charlotte Salomon. It is a Gesamtkunstwerk of sorts, an ambitious fusion of visual art, poetry and perhaps other hidden artforms by a young Jewish German women who eventually found herself in Auschwitz. The entire work was made in 1941-42 and is a series of about 760 gouache paintings that retell the story of numerous suicides in her family, mostly women on a background of suggested abuse. It was mostly in German which I found difficult to fully understand (my German not being up to scratch despite being married for a number of years now to a beautiful German lass) but the intense visuals were quite astounding. I realised very quickly that this kind of artwork, which was laid out in a series of cases (as you’ll see in the images below), was a form of comics. It also happened to coincide with the period where I was organising the first of the Sleuth series of exhibits, which mostly involved me using entire sheets of paper as panels for comics that were to spread across walls. I found it very interesting indeed. I must get my mitts on a copy of the book of these images.

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