Clara Westhoff

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Clara Westhoff, portrait by Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1905

Clara Westhoff (21 September 1878 in Bremen – 9 March 1954 in Fischerhude), also known as Clara Rilke or Clara Rilke-Westhoff was a pioneer German woman sculptor and artist. She was the wife of poet Rainer Maria Rilke.[1]

Early life[edit]

At 17, Westhoff went to Munich, where she attended a private art school. In 1898 she moved to Worpswede and learned sculpture with Fritz Mackensen. She befriended Paula Becker (later Modersohn-Becker) a painter there. She continued her studies in 1899 with Carl Seffner and Max Klinger in Leipzig and, in 1900, trained with Auguste Rodin in Paris, also attending the Académie Colarossi.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1901 she married the poet Rainer Maria Rilke in Worpswede. Eighteen years later, she moved to Fischerhude with her daughter, Ruth Rilke. Her home there with a studio later became the "Café Rilke", which still exists today.

Career[edit]

By 1925 Westhoff had turned to painting so that, in addition to her sculptural work, she created an equally substantial body of work in painting.

Death[edit]

She died in Fischerhude on 9 March 1954.

Legacy[edit]

Her work was privately owned or barely accessible to the public in various collections.

With her comprehensive biography in 1986, Marina Sauer initiated a rehabilitation of the artist by freeing Clara Rilke-Westhoff from the shadowy existence of being seen only as the wife of Rilke and as a friend of Paula Modersohn-Becker. Clara Rilke-Westhoff can today be seen as a pioneer among women sculptors in Germany.

References[edit]