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Striking Poses

Family Portraits from Jewish Society

Ludwig Knaus (1829-1910), Familienbildnis Strousberg, Berlin 1870

Ludwig Knaus (1829-1910), painting of family Strousberg, Berlin 1870
© Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin

Calico manufacturer Alexander Goldschmidt and his family are seated in the courtyard of their factory building. The Manheimers, a merchant family, dance and play music in front of their art collection. In Germany's period of rapid economic expansion after 1871, railway magnate Bethel Henry Strousberg and his family gather for their portrait in the park behind their mansion. The family of publisher Mosse had its picture painted on what looks like a theatrical stage. Artist Max Liebermann painted a portrait of his wife, children and himself at his summer residence at Wannsee Lake. And in the 1920s, Max Slevogt captured the family of his doctor, Janos Pesch, in a relaxed, intimate setting.

The exhibition "Striking Poses" focuses on six portraits of these Berlin families, originating in the Biedermeier era, the Regency period and in the Early 20th century. Exhibition designer Fred Berndt has created stage-like spaces surrounding these portraits to allow visitors to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the different periods. Costumes, photographs and mementos tell the families' stories and make the lifestyles and tastes of the Jewish bourgeoisie come alive.

Judaism played different roles for these families - for some it had no significance whatsoever. It is striking that there is nothing specifically Jewish about the portraits. Very little distinguishes the subjects from the non-Jewish families of the day. As German Jews were very much part of the German bourgeoisie, the exhibition can be understood as presenting the history of bourgeois families in Germany in general.

Udo Hesse illustrates how this history extends to the present day with his photographs of contemporary Jewish families.


06 October 2004 - 30 January 2005

An exhibition by the Jewish Museum Berlin with the generous support of the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin.

The Jewish Museum thanks its sponsors and media partners for supporting the exhibition "Striking Poses".

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