Lovis Corinth: Petermannchen
Portrait of Charlotte Berend
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) painted this portrait of a young woman during a holiday together on the Baltic coast. The portrait subject, Charlotte Berend (1880-1967), was daughter to a Jewish merchant family and took lessons with the well-known painter as an escape from bourgeois constraints. She became one of his favorite pupils and the couple were engaged later in 1902, the same year that this picture was painted.
Corinth was already exploring the limits of convention through the subject’s casual stance, with head back and shoulders uncovered, suggestive of the sensual, erotic portraits he went on to paint of Charlotte Berend in the years that followed. Hidden in the picture is a dedication from the artist to his lover: Barely visible on the back of the chair "m(ein) l(iebes) Petermannchen" (my dear Petermannchen) is written. She herself traced this nickname back to a harmless, amusing story. But Corinth was probably aware of the other meaning: The "Petermannchen" is a fish that can suddenly bristle and injure badly.
Lovis Corinth had many Jewish commissioners, as numerous portraits prove. This one of his future wife is evidence of the dialog between two artists and at the same time evocative of the picture of a "beautiful Jew." It tells of the tension between the Jewish identities around and beyond religion and bourgeoisie.
Following her marriage, Charlotte Berend increasingly put her own artistic work behind that of her husband, although she continued to belong to and exhibit at the Secession. In 1939, she emigrated to New York where she opened an art school.
Petermannchen / Portrait of Charlotte Berend
Seebad Horst i. Pommern a. d. Ostsee (today Nichorze, Polen), 1902
Oil on canvas, 119 x 95 cm
"Lovis Corinth / 2. September 1902", on the back of the chair "m. l. Petermannchen"