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Charlotte Salomon: “Life? Or Theater?” June 19–Sept. 21 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum

Check out the press release below to learn more about Charlotte Salomon: “Life? Or Theater?” at the Illinois Holocaust Museum:

SKOKIE, IL – The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is pleased to announce the summer opening of Charlotte Salomon: “Life? or Theater?” This moving exhibition, featuring nearly 300 of Charlotte Salomon’s paintings from the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, offers a rare opportunity to witness Salomon’s only major work, a masterpiece that survived the Holocaust and stands as a testament to her life and artistic vision.

In the early years of World War II, Charlotte Salomon, a 23-year-old Jewish artist from Berlin, fled to the south of France where she shut herself into a hotel room and spent two years feverishly painting the history of her life. She called it Life? or Theater?: A Play With Music, an astounding body of over 1,300 powerfully drawn and expressively colored gouache paintings conceived as a sort of autobiographical operetta on paper. One page after another, Salomon used an inventive mixture of images, dialogue, commentary and musical cues to tell a compelling coming-of-age story set amidst family suicides and increasing Nazi oppression.

“Life? or Theater? is an extraordinary work of art that deserves and needs to be seen,” said Susan Abrams, CEO of the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

“Anyone with an interest in the creative spirit will be awed by the magnum opus of this young woman who felt she had no place in society. Her lifetime of work, created with no promise or hope of recognition, speaks deeply to how essential the act of art making can be in times of turmoil. We feel privileged to be able to bring this to a wider audience.”
After her work was completed, Salomon entrusted Life? or Theater? to a local doctor with the plea,

“Keep this safe. It is my whole life.” Just one year after she completed Life? or Theater?, the pregnant 26-year-old was transported to Auschwitz and killed, but her singular creation survived. The exhibition highlights the main acts of Salomon’s sweeping narrative, allowing visitors to appreciate not just the individual strength of each piece but also its serial nature.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center’s featured film and discussion in conjunction with this exhibition will be held on Sunday, June 29th, 2014. Life? or Theater?, directed by Franz Weisz. Running time is 85 minutes with English subtitles. To register for this event or to learn more, visit www.ilholocaustmuseum.org or call 847-967-4800.

Charlotte Salomon: “Life? or Theater?” was organized by the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. Copyright holder is the Charlotte Salomon Foundation, Amsterdam. The local presentation of the exhibition has been made possible by the generous and visionary support of The Craig and Donna Bernfield Family Foundation, Norman and Virginia Bobins, Nathan and Alyse Mason Brill, and Nicor Gas. The Golder Family Foundation is lead sponsor for all Illinois Holocaust Museum special exhibitions. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Age.

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