Jeanne Mammen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jeanne Mammen
Jeanne Mammen, 1975
Born21 November 1890
Berlin, Germany
Died22 April 1976 (aged 85)
Known forPainting, lithography
MovementNew Objectivity, Cubism, Symbolism

Jeanne Mammen (21 November 1890 – 22 April 1976) was a German painter, illustrator, and printmaker. Her work is associated with the New Objectivity, Symbolism, and Cubism movements. She is best known for her depictions of strong, sensual women[1] and Berlin city life during the Weimar period.[2]


Early life[edit]

Jeanne Mammen was born in Berlin, the daughter of a successful German merchant. She and her family moved to Paris when she was five years old.[3] She started her studies at Académie Julian, one of few art schools at the time that taught women with the same rigor as men. When her family relocated to Brussels, she studied at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1908.[4] Her early work, influenced by Symbolism, Art Nouveau, and the Decadent movement, was exhibited in Brussels and Paris in 1912 and 1913.[5]

In 1916 Mammen and her family fled Paris to avoid internment during World War I.[6] While her parents moved to Amsterdam, Mammen chose instead to return to Berlin. She was now financially on her own for the first time, as the French government had confiscated all of her family's property. For several years Mammen struggled to make ends meet, taking any work she could find, and spending time with people from different class backgrounds. These experiences and newfound sympathies are reflected in her artwork from the period.[1]

Weimer Period[edit]

In time Mammen was able to find work as a commercial artist, producing fashion plates, movie posters, and caricatures for satirical journals such as Simplicissimus, Ulk,[5] and Jugend.[7] In the mid-1920s she became known for her illustrations evoking the urban atmosphere of Berlin. Much of her artwork depicted women. These women subjects often included haughty socialites, fashionable middle-class shop girls, street singers, and prostitutes.[8] Her drawings were often compared to those of George Grosz and Otto Dix.[9] Throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s she worked mainly in pencil with watercolor washes, and in pen and ink.[7]

In 1921, Mammen moved into an apartment with her sister in Berlin. This apartment was a former photographer's studio which she lived in until her death. Aside from art throughout her life Mammen also was interested in science. She was close friends with Max Delbrück who left Europe and took some of her artwork with him and exhibited them in California. In addition to bringing these art works to be exhibited he also sent Mammen care packages from the United States with art supplies.[10]

In 1930 she had a major exhibition in the Fritz Gurlitt gallery.[11] Over the next two years, at Gurlitt's suggestion, she created a series of eight lithographs illustrating Les Chansons de Bilitis, a collection of lesbian love poems by Pierre Louÿs.[11]

World War II[edit]

In 1933, following Mammen's inclusion in an exhibition of female artists in Berlin, the Nazi authorities denounced her motifs and subjects as "Jewish", and banned her lithographs for Les Chansons de Bilitis.[11] The Nazis also opposed her blatant disregard for 'appropriate' female submissiveness in the expressions of her subjects as well as the lesbian imagery found in many of her works.[12] The Nazis shut down most of the journals she had worked for,[13] and she refused to work for those that complied with their cultural policies.[11]

Until the end of the war she practiced "inner emigration". She stopped exhibiting her work and focused on advertising. For a time she also peddled second-hand books from a handcart.[13] In the 1940s, in a show of solidarity, Mammen began experimenting with Cubism and expressionism, a risky move given the Nazis' condemnation of abstract art as "degenerate". During this, Mammen, an avid reader of modernist literature, also started her translation of Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations.[14]

Postwar and later years[edit]

After the war she took to collecting wires, string, and other materials from the streets of bombed-out Berlin to create reliefs. In the late 1940s she began exhibiting her work again, as well as designing sets for the Die Badewanne cabaret. She created abstract collages from various materials, including candy wrappers. In the 1950s she adopted a new style, combining thick layers of oil paint with a few fine marks on the surface.[15]

Style and Methods[edit]

She worked in a variety of mediums, including watercolor, oil, lithography, and sculpture but is most known for her Weimer period (1919–33) works in watercolor and graphite. Her style during this time was characterized by "a simplified, elegant line with a wash of color added later [which] made her popular among high-circulation magazines and journals".[16]

During this time, she was a part of the New Objectivity movement, in which artists attempted to reconcile with a post-WWI Germany by looking at societal issues with "meticulous detail and violent satire".[17] Under the Nazi regime, she experimented in secret with Cubism and Expressionism to rebel against the government's banning of "degenerate" art.[18] She was particularly inspired by Picasso and his Guernica.[18]


Mammen's works focused largely on female subjects and female relationships, both platonic and romantic. Many of her female subjects displayed characteristics of the "New Woman'' of 1920's Berlin - fashionable, independent, and relatively sexually liberated.[19] In her Weimer period illustrations and watercolors, she "addressed the changing roles of women. From the vamp, the naive and young, to the bourgeois and the intellectual, she depicted the complexities of being a New Woman struggling with emerging roles."[16]

Many of her works also centered around homosexuality and challenging traditional gender roles. She included 14 of her illustrations in Curt Moreck's Guide to Depraved Berlin, published in 1931, a guide to the lesbian and gay scene in Berlin.[20] Her contributions depicted prostitutes, women-only nightclubs, and bars of the city.[20] She also provided illustrations for Les Chansons de Bilitis, a collection of lesbian love poems.[11] According to Lydia Bohmert, in contrast with her contemporaries, Mammen "viewed the homosexual subculture with understanding".[citation needed]



In the 1970s there was a resurgence of interest in Mammen's early work as German art historians and art historians of the women's movement rediscovered her paintings and illustrations from the Weimar period.[15] In 2010 the Des Moines Art Center exhibited 13 watercolor paintings done by Mammen which were inspired by Berlin in the Weimer era.[21] In 2013 her later, more abstract work, was featured in "Painting Forever!", a large-scale exhibition held during Berlin Art Week.[2]

Memorial plaque at Mammen's studio apartment

The Berlinische Galerie mounted a major exhibition of Mammen's work in 2017-2018, titled, "Jeanne Mammen: Die Beobachterin: Retrospektive 1910–1975" (Jeanne Mammen: The Observer: Retrospective 1910–1975), which included more than 170 works in various media, covering the period from the 1920s to her later work post-1960s. The show was an update to the Galerie's 1997 show at the Martin Gropius Bau, which featured primarily works from the 1920s.[22]

Foundation and Jeanne Mammen Apartment Museum[edit]

The Jeanne Mammen Foundation created a museum of Jeanne's studio apartment at Kurfürstendamm 29, which she lived and worked in for over 50 years.[10] Since the foundation's dissolution in 2018, the Stadtmuseum Berlin runs the museum.[10]


  • "I always wished to be just a pair of eyes, to explore the world without being seen, only to see others." — Jeanne Mammen[8]

Public collections[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harrity, Christopher. "Artist Spotlight on Jeanne Mammen". Retrieved 5 April 2015. Jeanne Mammen captured the powerful and sensual aspects of women during Weimar era Germany.
  2. ^ a b "To Be Just a Pair of Eyes: The other side of Jeanne Mammen". ArtMag. Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2015. Watercolors and drawings like this one [brought] Mammen fame as a chronicler of Berlin city life.
  3. ^ "MoMA | The Collection | Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890–1976)". Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  4. ^ Böhmert, Lydia (2017). Jeanne Mammen: Paris - Bruxelles - Berlin. Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag. pp. 13–14. ISBN 9783422073777.
  5. ^ a b Sykora (1988), p. 28.
  6. ^ Great Women Artists. Phaidon Press. 2019. p. 258. ISBN 978-0714878775.
  7. ^ a b "Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976)". Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Jeanne Mammen". Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  9. ^ Sykora (1988), p. 29.
  10. ^ a b c "Jeanne Mammen's studio". Stadtmuseum Berlin. Retrieved 2023-10-06.
  11. ^ a b c d e "The Artist Jeanne Mammen (1890 - 1976)". Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  12. ^ womensartblog (2017-12-13). "Jeanne Mammen & the Women of Berlin's Cabaret". #womensart ♀. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  13. ^ a b Sykora (1988), p. 30.
  14. ^ Böhmert, Lydia (2017). Jeanne Mammen: Paris - Bruxelles - Berlin. Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag. p. 166. ISBN 9783422073777.
  15. ^ a b Sykora (1988), p. 31.
  16. ^ a b Somerville, Kristine (2019). "Chronicler of the Metropolis: Jeanne Mammen's Berlin Watercolors". The Missouri Review. 42 (1): 143–153. ISSN 1548-9930.
  17. ^ Chilvers, Ian (2009-01-01), "Neue Sachlichkeit", The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780199532940.001.0001/acref-9780199532940-e-1736, ISBN 978-0-19-953294-0, retrieved 2023-10-08
  18. ^ a b Troeller, Jordan (2019). "Review of Jeanne Mammen, The Observer: Retrospective 1910–1975". Woman's Art Journal. 40 (1): 49–51. ISSN 0270-7993.
  19. ^ Smith, Jill Suzanne (2013). Berlin Coquette: Prostitution and the New German Woman, 1890ñ1933. Cornell University Press. doi:10.7591/j.ctt32b611. ISBN 978-0-8014-5267-3.
  20. ^ a b Royal, Suzanne (2007). Graphic Art in Weimar Berlin: The Case of Jeanne Mammen (PhD). University of Southern California.
  21. ^ "Jeanne Mammen". Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  22. ^ "Ausstellungen Berlin: Jeanne Mammen | Berlinische Galerie | Ihr Museum für moderne und zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin". (in German). Retrieved 2018-03-03.


  • Förderverein der Jeanne-Mammen-Stiftung e. V., Jeanne Mammen: Paris – Bruxelles Berlin, Berlinische Galerie Berlin, 2017
  • Harrity, Christopher. "Artist Spotlight on Jeanne Mammen". Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  • Sykora, Katharina (Autumn 1988). "Jeanne Mammen". Woman's Art Journal. 9 (2). Woman's Art Inc.: 28–31. doi:10.2307/1358317. JSTOR 1358317.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lampela, Laura (Autumn 1988). "Including Lesbians and Gays in Art Curricula: The Art of Jeanne Mammen". Visual Arts Research. 33 (1). University of Illinois Press: 34–43. JSTOR 20715432.
  • Lütgens, Annelie. "Jeanne Mammen". In: Louise R. Noun (ed.), Three Berlin Artists of the Weimar Era: Hannah Höch, Käthe Kollwitz, Jeanne Mammen. Des Moines, Iowa: Des Moines Art Center, 1994.

External links[edit]