Paula Modersohn-Becker painted her last self-portrait in autumn 1907, while she was pregnant with her first child. In the painting she gazes straight at the viewer, holding up two flowers—symbols of the creativity and procreativity of women artists—and resting a protective hand atop her swelling belly. Modersohn-Becker would die three weeks after giving birth, at age thirty-one, still to be recognized as the first woman artist to challenge centuries of representations of the female body. Today this compelling work claims an important place at The Museum of Modern Art as the earliest painting by a woman on view in the collection galleries. Art historian Diane Radycki’s essay examines Modersohn-Becker’s self-portrait in depth, surveys the artist’s late career, and discusses her posthumous recognition.
Each volume in the One on One series is a sustained meditation on a single work from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. A richly illustrated and lively essay illuminates the subject in detail and situates the work within the artist’s life and career as well as within broader historical contexts. This series is an invaluable guide for exploring and interpreting some of the most beloved artworks in the Museum’s collection. 48pp; 35 illus.