Jeanne Mammen, Redheaded Woman, circa 1928
Jeanne Mammen, Redheaded Woman, circa 1928

Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976)

Redheaded Woman, circa 1928

“The Redheaded Woman” is the type of woman who attracts attention involuntarily – it is not only the radiant colour of her hair that is so distinctive. Her entire appearance is attractive, although we can only sense it beneath the wide hairdresser’s cape. The redhead is one of many female figures that Jeanne Mammen captured with precisely drawn lines in the late 1920s, early 1930s. At that time, the artist was earning a living from pencil drawings with watercolour washes and pen and ink works, which were intended for publication in magazines. The picture of a redhead being pampered by a hairdresser appeared in 1928 in “Ulk”, the illustrated supplement of the liberal “Berliner Tageblatt”. It shows a striking woman: her unusual hair colour signalises individualism and unconventional independence, and her pose is redolent of self-confidence.

In the drawing Jeanne Mammen shows considerable sympathy for this capricious individual with her erotic aura and cool, reserved appearance. Cautious treatment of her sitters is characteristic of Mammen, who grew up in Paris and always remained something of a loner and outsider in Berlin. She did not produce caricatures like George Grosz, who was practising a ruthless mockery of the “German petit bourgeoisie” and their unpolished hideousness at that time – sometimes even in the same magazines. Nor was she ever driven by the same compulsion to authenticity that made Otto Dix accentuate his contemporaries’ disadvantageous features. Mammen was as keenly observant as her colleagues, but her skill was not combined with aggression and extreme directness but with sensitivity and a love of humanity – the sides of her personality that led her to reject an exaggeratedly pointed depiction of her characters.

Redheaded Woman, circa 1928Watercolours and pencil on paper34.7 x 31 cmDonation from the Jeanne Mammen Society, Berlin 1997© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011