Charlotte Salomon

Charlotte Salomon , painter Jewish origin German , was born in Berlin on 16 of April of 1917 and was killed by gas in the concentration camp of Auschwitz , the October of October of 1943 , at the age of 26 years.


Children and youth in Berlin

His father, Albert Salomon, was a medical surgeon and a renowned university professor and his mother, a nurse. Belonging to the upper bourgeoisie they had a comfortable life in the Berlin district of Charlottenbourg . When Charlotte is 9 years old, the 22 of February of 1926 , his mother, Franziska Grunwald, commits suicide by jumping from a window of his house. Charlotte, who has the name of her mother’s sister who committed suicide at age 18, is told that her mother has died due to the worsening flu. She was educated by governesses until 4 years later her father married Paula Lindberg , an important lyric singer. It is she who initiates Charlotte into the beauty of music and art as national socialism grows in Germany.

In 1933 when Hitler comes to power, his family is cataloged as “100% Jewish”; As many other Jewish families try to adapt and his father continues to practice his profession. At the end of 1933, the maternal grandparents of Charlotte, also Jews, emigrated to Italy and the following year settled in Villefranche-sur-Mer , in the south of France .

Victim of the anti-Semitism of the environment, Charlotte leaves the Lyceum to follow artistic studies being the unique student “100% Jewish” that is accepted in the National School of the Academy of the Beautiful Arts . There he learns the official traditional techniques but his works of that time show the influence of the modern works, miraculously safeguarded, in the library of the Academy.

When the 9 of November of 1938 takes place Kristallnacht , Charlotte is no longer at the Academy: a prize he had won would have given another student for fear of drawing attention to his Jewish origin; The situation became unbearable for her and after a short arrest of her father, she should choose to leave Berlin and meet with her grandparents in France, while her father and wife leave for Holland .

Exile with his grandparents in France

When the war is declared in September 1939, she discovers her grandmother who has just committed suicide and, while her grandfather resuscitates his wife, confesses the great family secret: his mother has not died of a flu but committed suicide, Like his 18-year-old Aunt Charlotte, an aunt and a cousin: the women in the family commit suicide.

This truth was a real cataclysm for young Charlotte. To ward off this fatality, he urgently begins to paint with the decision to “create something truly crazy and unique.”

In less than two years (1940-1942) he created a complex work that mixed theater, painting and music. A blazing path of 1325 gouaches , from the first image, that of her aunt’s suicide in 1913, whom she did not know and from which she takes the name to the last, where she painted herself when in 1940 she chose to live and become Painter: she is depicted painting in front of the sea and writes on her back the name of the work ” ¿Vida? O Theater? “(” Leben? Oder Theater? “).

This dedication to the work allowed him to achieve the mental balance and to save his life, at least for a while, in that world sunk in the madness of the war.

Work: Life? O Theater?


For life? Or Theater? “Charlotte has selected 769 aguadas, various texts and pieces of music. It is divided into three parts: Prelude, Main Part and Epilogue. The Prelude shows admirably detailed scenes from his childhood in Berlin. In the Main Part, dedicated to Alfred Wolfsohn, the singing teacher of his stepmother and probably Charlotte’s first love, notes his ideas regarding art and soul. The Epilogue focuses on his life on the French Riviera.

The style varies considerably from one period to another. The first paintings are very colorful and show an exceptional memory of the spaces and places where he spent his childhood. Afterwards, painting becomes more and more abstract as subjects cease to be material memories to become more complex impressions and experiences.

The difference between the paintings of the suicide of his (imagined) mother and that of his (living) grandmother range from the loss of a girl to the pain of an adult wounded. The first, delicately painted, is beautiful despite the theme, the last, oozing only pain.