Many of Jeanne Mammen’s watercolours and drawings in the 1920s featured fashionably styled vamps and tramps. Yet she herself preferred “to pass through the world unseen”. Peering at herself in an artistic mirror was not her thing. There is, however, a rare self-portrait from a sketchpad of 1926, when Jeanne Mammen and her sister took a holiday on the Belgian North Sea coast.

It depicts the artist in a bright, bare space, probably a simple hotel room. She stands bolt upright, arms hanging loose, hands neatly folded – a lean and very introvert apparition. The plain, high-necked black dress swallows all signs of a body. Black is also the colour of her short-cropped hair and her eyes. Only the red lips offer a dab of colour. The expression on this round face is earnest and composed. The portrait has the feel of a sober self-examination. The observer, just for once, is observing herself.

 

 

Read more stories about Jeanne Mammen here.

 

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