1885 – 1933 / German avant-gardist painter
Growing up in the art and culture scene
Anita Rées’ father is a merchant from a Jewish family rich in tradition, her mother is from Venezuela. The family is wealthy and well-connected in Hamburg’s art and cultural scene. Anita Rée, born in 1885, receives a basic artistic education as a “higher daughter”:
Her Path to Professional Painting
Rée’s serious. She takes private lessons with Arthur Siebelist, works with Franz Nölken and Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann, and ventures to Paris to study nude painting. Inspired by Fernand Léger, Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne, as well as by the old masters, she turns all these impressions into her very own unique style.
The Painter of Hamburg
Back in Germany, she was one of the founding members of the Hamburg Secession and joined the Hamburg Artists Association in 1920. The portraits and self-portraits of Anita Rées were intriguing Hamburg’s society back then and still impress today with their subtlety and depth. In her pictures, she approaches the foreign, the strange in other places, other people and herself. The thematic focus of her work is the existential question of one’s own identity.
“She draws like a man!”
are said to be the words painter’s colleague Franz Nölken used to comment on Rées extraordinary skills. Her work is also well received elsewhere: In the 1920s and early 1930s, Rée exhibited in Hamburg, Paris and Positano, Italy. Her works even made it to Scandinavia and Cambridge, England.
Political Persecution under National Socialism
However, with the rise of National Socialism in Germany, the artist’s success ceased. Although Rée grew up Protestant, her Jewish descent became her undoing. Commissions were withdrawn and in 1933 she was expelled from the Hamburg Art Society as a member “foreign to the species”. She had already left the city by that time. In 1933, she took her own life.
Rescuing her works
After her death, her work continued to be defamed by the National Socialists. Her works were deemed “bastardly” and degenerate and were to be removed from the collection rooms of the Hamburger Kunsthalle in 1937. By then, however, they were already in a safe hiding place: Wilhelm Werner, the caretaker of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, had secretly taken them to his own apartment in the summer of the same year. After 1945, he quietly reinstated the seven works into the depot inventory.