German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876–1907) would have turned 142 yesterday. Google marked the occasion by honoring her with one of its signature Google doodles, which transform the company logo to honor various holidays, events, or historic figures.
Although she is now considered one of the early Expressionists, Modersohn-Becker struggled in her career. She made more than 700 paintings but sold only three before her untimely death at the age of 31, suffering an embolism just days after giving birth to her first child.
Determined to pursue her craft, she left home at just 18 to join the Worpswede artist colony in northern Germany. It was a key moment in her life. She met her future husband, painter Otto Modersohn (1865–1943), as well as close friend Clara Westhoff (1878–1954), a sculptor with whom she would travel to Paris, and Westhoff’s future husband, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926).
Modersohn-Becker is known for her intimate, often nude paintings of women, and is thought to be the first woman artist to paint a nude self portrait. She struggled to balance her career and her marriage, leaving Modersohn for a time when she and Westhoff went to work in Paris.
The Museum of Modern Art and the Neue Galerie, both in New York, recently teamed up to acquire Modersohn-Becker’s Selbstbildnis mit zwei Blumen in der erhobenen linken Hand (Self-Portrait with Two Flowers in Her Raised Left Hand) (1907). It is the only painting by the artist in the city, and her only self-portrait in the US.
Google’s colorful doodle replaces the company’s logo with a drawing of the artist, paintbrush in hand, in front of a selection of colorful canvases. (Modersohn-Becker’s likeness recalls the MoMA/Neue Galerie portrait, in which she holds two flowers against her cheek.) It was created by the Berlin illustration duo Golden Cosmos.
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