Ka the Kollwitz, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Gabriele Mu nter and Marianne Werefkin are among the exceptional artists associated with the emergence of Expressionism in Germany in the early decades of the 20th century. Each challenged prevailing ideals of feminine identity at a time of great societal change. As women, they were expected to marry and raise a family; some chose to, some did not. As ambitious artists, they wanted to work.
As they rose to these challenges, their art further undermined conventions. Their portraits of children symbolise joy, hope and innocence but also melancholy, tension, curiosity, the passing of time and unfulfilled desire. Their radical depictions of the nude wrest the female body away from the male gaze towards a newfound role, expressive of powerful maternity and female subjectivity. These dramatic modernist compositions, with their fluid brushwork and bright hues, push at the boundaries of form, colour and spiritual meaning.