Erna Pinner: Die Stadt Tetuan (Mexiko), Tuschezeichnung, 1926
Exhibition preview

Back Into The Light

Four Women Artists – Their Works, Their Paths. / 11/24/2022 - 04/17/2023

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt is planning an exhibition in the fall of 2022 on four Frankfurt women artists who are almost forgotten today.

In recent years, female artists have repeatedly been brought into focus amongst museum exhibitions. Those who went into exile during the Nazi era and were forgotten from the international art focus of the post-war period (Lotte Laserstein) and / or whose art did not belong to the avant-garde of the post-war period (Ottilie W. Röderstein).

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt sees one of its most important collection focuses to trace, collect and research Frankfurt Jewish artists of the so-called "lost generation". In the first few years of its founding, the museum rediscovered artists who had to leave Frankfurt after 1933 and presented them to the public anew (Samson Fritz Schames (1989), Hanns Ludwig Katz (1992)). The museum is now devoting itself to four Frankfurt artists who all shaped artistic life in Frankfurt in the 1920s and who knew how to assert themselves alongside their male colleagues thanks to their cosmopolitan way of life. They enjoyed a high degree of popularity, the Nazi era put an end to it, and even after the Shoah their life and work fell into oblivion. The planned exhibition makes it its task to duly honor the careers of the artists Erna Pinner (1890, Frankfurt a.M. – 1987, London), Rosy Lilienfeld (1896, Frankfurt a.M. – 1942, Auschwitz), Amalie Seckbach (1870, Hungen – 1944, Theresienstadt)  and Ruth Cahn (1870, Hungen – 1944, Theresienstadt)  and to locate them in the context of their time. While only the work of the artist Erna Pinner was partially researched, new insights into her life and work should be given through previously unknown drawings and photographs. The Jewish Museum Frankfurt owns over 400 drawings by the artist Erna Pinner, which were donated to the Jewish Museum Frankfurt in 2014 from the estate. Since then, it has been the only place where this large number of works by this artist have been preserved.

Rosy Lilienfeld's work was only discovered through collecting activities in the Jewish Museum and is gradually being made accessible. With around 100 drawings and graphics by this artist, the Jewish Museum Frankfurt is the only place where works on this scale are collected. Very few works and documents have survived on the artists Ruth Cahn and Amalie Seckbach. But it is precisely these flaws that are significant and are made visible in the exhibition: A contemporary artist is commissioned to process the existing material and convert it into a digital visualization. 

Curator: Dr. Eva Atlan
Co-Curators: Annika Friedman, Dennis Eiler

Amalie Seckbach (1870, Hungen – 1944, Theresienstadt)

Portrait photo of Frankfurt artist Amalie Seckbach (1870-1944)
We are looking for works of the Frankfurt artist Amalie Seckbach (1870-1944)

The German-Jewish artist Amalie Seckbach (1870-1944) moved with her parents from the town of Hungen to Frankfurt am Main in 1902. Inspired by Far Eastern philosophy and religion, she built up a collection of Chinese woodblock prints that was highly praised in specialist circles as early as the early 20th century. It was only later in life, after the death of her husband, the architect Max Seckbach (1866-1922), that she began to work as a painter and sculptor. As early as 1929 she was able to exhibit her sculptural works in an exhibition with James Ensor (1860-1949) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts as well as in exhibitions at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris.

From 1933 onwards, she could only exhibit in Germany within the parameters of the Jewish Cultural Association or abroad, as she did in 1936 at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1941, when the Nazi regime persecution reached devastating proportions, Amalie Seckbach decided to leave Germany, but was arrested in September 1942 and deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Here she painted with the materials at her disposal, but succumbed to the consequences of imprisonment in August 1944.

We are looking for more information and any of her remaining works. If you know any, please contact us! 

Erna Pinner (1890, Frankfurt am Main – 1987, London)

The exhibition sets out to juxtapose two fundamentally different phases of Erna Pinner’s life and work. In both phases, though, the focus is primarily on her oeuvre as a writer and illustrator. Erna Pinner gained public recognition in the 1920s with such publications as Das Schweinebuch (“The Book of Pigs”, 1922), Eine Dame in Griechenland (“A Lady in Greece”, 1927), and Ich reise um die Welt (“I Travel Around the World”, 1931). Through her illustrations, these books stand as quite independent works far removed from the influence of the expressionist writer Kasimir Edschmid. In them, she not only attained a graphic style with a precise and elegant use of line, but also effectively fused the seen and experienced with the written word.

After emigrating to London in 1935, she developed a new style of illustrations for popular science publications, depicting volumes, proportions, and textures in almost photographic detail. She studied zoology at university and took courses in printmaking. After the war, her publications increasingly dealt with the history of species. From the years after her emigration, two books especially provide an impressive example of her mix of artistic insight and scientific research – Curious Creatures (1951, 1953 in German) and Born Alive (1959).

Ruth Cahn (7 December 1875 - 20 May 1966)

Born in Frankfurt am Main in 1875, the artist Amalie Leontine Cahn Schwarzadler became known far beyond her hometown as Ruth Cahn. She studied art in Munich and Barcelona, and in particular with the Fauvist painter Kees van Dongen in Paris. In the 1920s, her paintings were shown at the Frankfurt art dealers H. Trittler and Ludwig Schames. In 1924, the Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona presented Ruth Cahn’s pictures in a solo show. The same gallery also enabled Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, then unknown artists, to have their first shows. 

Ruth Cahn’s family was scattered across Spain, Switzerland and South America. In 1935, she emigrated from Nazi Germany to Chile, only returning to Europe in 1953. After living in Barcelona for some years, she moved back to Frankfurt in 1961. She died in her hometown five years later. Today, the vast majority of Cahn’s oeuvre is thought to have been lost in the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. We would like to reconstruct Ruth Cahn’s life and work. She belongs to that generation of Frankfurt German-Jewish women artists whose creative work was abruptly halted.

On 8 September 1984, the Frankfurt Arnold auction house sold two of Cahn’s paintings. Since then, all trace of them has been lost. Does anyone know where they could be now?

Rosy Lilienfeld (1896, Frankfurt – 1942, Auschwitz)

Rosy Lilienfeld was born in Frankfurt am Main on 17 January 1896. The family lived in Frankfurt’s Westend district. In the early 1920s, Rosy Lilienfeld studied at the Städelschule art academy under artist Ugi Battenberg. The Städelschule also provided her with a studio in the Sachsenhausen artist’s quarter until 1936, when the contract was terminated. Unemployed from 1933, Lilienfeld could no longer pay the rent for the studio. On 17 July 1939, Rosy Lilienfeld's mother applied for permission for herself and her daughter to emigrate to England. But rather than their journey taking them to England, it took them to Holland. From 23 November 1939, Rosy Lilienfeld was registered as resident in Rotterdam. She lived at a variety of addresses in the city until 25 February 1941. At that point, all traces of her mother are lost; her name is also not on the deportation lists. On 26 February 1941, Rosy Lilienfeld moved to Utrecht. There, she was arrested the following year and moved to the Westerbork transit camp. She was then deported to Auschwitz, where just a few weeks later she was murdered.

Our collection contains around ninety ink and charcoal drawings by Rosy Lilienfeld as well as a number of prints. The museum acquired approximately half these works from the art trade in the 1990s. Largely from the mid-1920s, these are primarily expressionist landscapes and Frankfurt cityscapes. Some of Lilienfeld’s compositions are imbued with a strong sense of unease. Their almost nightmarish atmosphere may be an indication of the artist’s mental state. As records show, after first attempting suicide in 1923 she was diagnosed as manic depressive and was in regular psychiatric treatment until 1935.

We are also continuing to search for biographical information and further works on Lilienfeld and would be very pleased to hear from you.


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