Ida Gerhardi

Ida Gerhardi, Selbstportrait, 1903
1862 – 1927 / German modernist painter
“What good is the world if I cannot paint?”
Ida Gerhardi

At the end of the 19th century, the German painter Ida Gerhardi burst onto the European art scene with unbounded creative zeal. Gerhardi was born in 1862 and grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia, where she nurtured her early dreams of achieving fame as an artist.

“Painter wenches” in the city of lights

At the age of 28 Gerhardi began studying at the women’s academy Damenakademie des Münchner Künstlerinnenverein and subsequently attended the Académie Colarossi in Paris. Once in the French capital, Gerhardi soon made the acquaintance of the artists Käthe Kollwitz and Maria Slavona and established a close friendship with the painter Jelka Rosen, with whom she spent some highly productive summers. She is counted among the “Malweiber”, or “painter wenches”, of Paris.

Ida Gerhardi, Dorfstraße bei Soest, 1913
“I would like to be a duck. A duck that swims alone.”
Ida Gerhardi
Determined foray into post-impressionism

Gerhardi possessed a strong desire for personal freedom and a confident attitude towards her own artistic abilities. She was convinced that she could earn a living solely from her art and took the daring step of painting in public spaces – just as her male counterparts did. She painted post-impressionist landscapes, scenes of everyday life in the city, and poignant (self) portraits.

Disappointment with the art market

Gerhardi grew frustrated with the male-dominated art market in France and the reactionary cultural politics that prevailed in the German Empire. To earn money she painted portraits, an occupation that she felt forced her to betray her own artistic style. When even these commissions no longer covered her financial needs, she began to organize exhibitions in Berlin, Munich and Paris. Her activities played a significant role in the cultural exchange between France and Germany.

Gerhardi’s works rarely received positive feedback in the press, and it was only in the last few years before her death in 1927 that the talented painter enjoyed the recognition she deserved.