Mela Muter (Maria Melania Mutermilch) - 2 Kinder
Mela Muter (Maria Melania Mutermilch)
Oil on herringbone canvas 99 x 99.5 cm Framed. Signed 'Muter' in black upper left and verso additionally signed and dated 'Mela Muter 1912' (hardly legible) upside down in black pen. - The canvas edge at the right frame edge slightly irregular with minor loss of material, the borders relined here, on an old chassis. Minute canvas patch verso upper left, old and backed. Small frame-related loss of colour immediate to upper canvas overlap.
The painting's closely cropped detail reveals much about the circumstances of the sitters' lives to the viewer, by means of only little information: the narrow bed, the abundance of chairs and the neatly decorated chest of drawers which presumably remain closed due to the lack of space as well as the oversized and evidently handed-down clothing and bare feet - all of this indicates to the viewer the tidy poverty in which the two sisters live. The seemingly disillusioned gaze of her reddened eyes permits us to sense the sleepless nights and how the older girl - still a child herself - has had to take early responsibility for her little sister. The image's pronouncedly downward view on to the two children additionally makes them seem even more inferior and poorer than their crowded room packed with furniture already suggests. The slightly wavering perspective also underscores the state of insecurity in which the children seem to find themselves. A positive counterweight to the unidealised realism of the scenery is, however, provided by the colouration, in which the complementary contrast of red and green seems to stretch across the pictorial space.
In 1905 Mela Muter immigrated from Poland to Paris. She always supported children; her contemporaries considered her an emphatic portraitist who pursued a distinctively individual style of painting. Writers, musicians and painters regularly visited her in her studio. Muter was acknowledged with major exhibitions in Europe and the US and honoured with awards.
Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne; Galerie Kenda Bar Gera, Cologne (gallery label on stretcher); Private possession
Cologne 1967 (Galerie Gmurzynska), Mela Muter. 1876 - 1967. Retrospektiv-Ausstellung, cat. no. 3, with full-page illus.