THE CALLA LILY DIALOGUES

LOTTE LASERSTEIN: German-Swedish painter and portraitist (1898-1993)

Calla Lily ArtArleen Solomon RotchinComment
Self-portrait with a cat, 1923

Self-portrait with a cat, 1923

In 1927, Lotte Laserstein was admitted to the Berlin Academy of Art, a rare achievement for a woman.

Berlin in the 1920s was an uneasy yet exciting place.  The changes in society were certainly apparent to Laserstein who was extremely modern in her thoughts.  She rejected conventional norms, perhaps because her unusual lifestyle and her homosexuality stamped her as an outsider.

She quickly made a name for herself on the lively diverse art scene of the metropolis.  She had the reputation of a brilliant artist.  

Her favoured subject was humanity, capturing the typical characters of the age in her paintings.

Her subjects were fashionable big-city ladies in a café, sportive tennis girls or a young motorbike rider in full gear.

It was prophesied that she would enjoy a glittering career.

However, only shortly after, the political conditions of the day devastated this prospect.  Laserstein was declared a ‘three-quarters Jew’ by the National Socialists and was gradually excluded from the city’s art world from 1933 onwards.

An exhibition of her works in the Stockholm Galerie Moderne provided the opportunity to leave German in 1937, taking many of her paintings with her. 

 Although Lotte Laserstein succeeded in making a living from her art in Swedish exile, she found it challenging to maintain the quality of her work under the difficult material and psychological conditions. 

While in Sweden, she made repeated concerted effort to get her mother and sister out of Germany (her father had already died) but in the end only her sister came.  Her mother ended up dying in Ravensbrtick concentration camp.

In 1938 she married a Swedish man in order to obtain her Swedish citizenship but of course the couple never lived together as husband and wife because Laserstein was a lesbian.  They remained good friends throughout their lives.

Lotte Laserstein’s talent was recognized in her adopted country of Sweden and she became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts.  She developed a reputation as a popular and respected portraitist.

Critics noted that her Swedish ouevre lacked the vigor and audacity of her earlier work.

In Germany a major retrospective exhibition held at Das Verborgene Museum, Berlin, 2003, returned Laserstein’s life and work to international attention and acclaim.

Lotte Laserstein died in 1993 at the age of 94 years old.