Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre?

8 November 2019 - 1 March 2020

Discover one of the most important and powerful achievements of the 20th century – the singular and complex artwork Life? or Theatre? by German-Jewish artist, Charlotte Salomon.

This major exhibition features over 200 small gouaches on paper which Salomon created as part of a larger body of work in the early 1940s when in hiding from Nazi oppressors. These remarkable gouaches unveil a vivid self-portrait spanning across all facets of Salomon’s existence: from a complicated family life, growing up in Berlin, the rise of the Nazis, to her exile to France.

In 1940 Salomon and her grandfather were interned by the French authorities in the Pyrenees; the same year her grandfather revealed an extensive family history of severe mental illness. In the chaotic conditions after the German invasion of France, they were released from the internment camp. Whilst in hiding between late 1940 and early 1942, in a burst of creativity, Salomon painted a life marked both by personal tragedy and external political events, combining images, texts and musical references, and pioneering a practice of honest and artistic self-expression.

Salomon’s life was cut short at the age of 26, and five months pregnant, when she was rearrested and deported to Auschwitz in 1943.

The gouaches will be accompanied by text captions in the form of wall graphics, along with short films and interactive media units, offering insight and understanding of the artwork.

Explore Charlotte Salomon’s extraordinary story and her ground-breaking artwork, which combines creative force with personal narrative.

Image: Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam © Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Charlotte Salomon ®


Discover more about Charlotte Salomon: Life? or Theatre? with our events programme.

Please note this exhibition contains sensitive material which you may find upsetting. If you would like more information about the exhibition please email [email protected] We also have Mental Health First Aiders who are available during your visit.

Salomon’s extraordinary artworks feature musical citations to complement the text and the image. Listen to her playlist here.