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Yesterday, Sunday 16 April, marked Charlotte Salomon’s centenary. I find myself imagining what the trajectory of her life – and art – might have been had she survived the Holocaust. Would she have rebuilt her life and perhaps settled in Amsterdam, where her parents had taken refuge during the war, and raised a family with her husband, fellow refugee Alexander Nagler? Would she have gone on to become a well-known artist and perhaps a grandmother and great-grandmother, founding a dynasty of artists? Perhaps she would now be celebrating her centenary. Her stepmother, the renowned mezzo soprano Paula Salomon-Lindberg, lived to celebrate hers, dying at the age of 102 in the year 2000.
Sadly this is idle speculation. The reality is that her achievement by the age of 26 stands as unique and extraordinary: the series of 765 autobiographical gouaches that make up her artwork Life? or Theatre?, which you can see for the first time in full from this October at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam.
The proof of her enduring fascination and the inspiration she continues to provide can be seen from this June in the performances of Charlotte – A Tri-Coloured Play with Music, in Canada and beyond, as its creators told me in the April 2017 issue of Jewish Renaissance.
Details and links to the exhibition of Life? Or Theatre? and performances of Charlotte - A Tricoloured Play with Music are below and I know that this year, and every year, Charlotte Salomon will continue to gain new admirers.
By Judi Herman
An exhibition of Charlotte Salomon’s artwork Life? Or Theatre? will be shown for the first time in full at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, from 25 October to 25 March 2018. www.jck.nl.
Charlotte – A Tri-Coloured Play with Music will be featured in two Canadian Festivals this June. The Human Rights Arts Festival in Kingston, 1 June, and Luminato Festival, Toronto, 16-18 June. Then from 30 June to 2 July at World Stage Design Festival Experimental Theatre in Taipei, Taiwan.
Visit www.theaturtle.com for other upcoming performances.
What links London’s latest hit musical An American in Paris, a revival of Incident in Vichy – an Arthur Miller drama not seen in this country for 50 years – and the centenary of the young German artist Charlotte Salomon, who continues to enchant more than 70 years after she perished in the Holocaust?
The clue is in the titles of the theatre pieces. Arthur Miller's Incident in Vichy concerns the fate of 10 men detained in Vichy, France, at the height of World War II in 1942, when Vichy became notoriously synonymous with the French government of Marshal Pétain that collaborated with the Nazis. An American in Paris, freshly adapted from the much-loved Gershwin movie musical, is reimagined with a story set in the City of Light in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the war. The heroine is a young Jewish ballerina safely hidden by Parisians, while her parents have disappeared in wartime Provence. And the young German artist Charlotte Salomon, escaping Nazi Germany to take refuge in the South of France, was herself arrested in Villefranche in September 1943 aged just 26 – within a month she had been murdered on arrival in Auschwitz.
Salomon was born 100 years ago this April and in the April edition of Jewish Renaissance, which will reach subscribers just before Passover, I explore the continuing allure of her life and work as expressed in the 765 autobiographical series of gouaches that make up her Life? Or Theatre?, in the company of the co-creators of a new play with music telling her story "in three dimensions".
I have just had the good fortune to marvel at the glorious evocation of the newly-liberated City of Light in American in Paris – a show that adds depth to the light-as-air story of the much-loved film musical without losing any of its charm and vitality, thanks to a fresh plot with Jewish protagonists at its heart. Find out more in my American in Paris review.
My most recent review is of an extraordinarily well-cast and tightly-directed revival of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy. The production successfully ratchets up the tension of Miller’s 90-minute morality play examining the different responses and fates of those 10 men picked off the streets of Vichy by a Nazi regime intent on rounding up Jews for deportation. It continues at London's Finborough Theatre until Saturday 22 April.
By Judi Herman