Cher Monsieur – My Fatal Lady

pauli_affisch2009.03.30 – 2009.1.18

Hanna Hirsch grew up in a Jewish middle-class family in Stockholm at the end of the 19th century. The Hirsch family was well-integrated, but Jewish traditions still seem to have played a big role in their lives.

At the “Cher Monsieur – My Fatal Lady” exhibition at the Jewish Museum, the focus was on Georg and Hanna Pauli. The story of how the artists met and became a couple is a tale of many exciting and romantic moments, but also of a few seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

When Agneta Pauli talks about her grandmother and grandfather in the catalogue and the exhibition, one is struck by how modern the Pauli couple were even by today’s standards, a hundred years later, both when it comes to their lifestyle and their thinking.

Hanna showed talent at an early stage, and already at age twelve she started at August Malmström’s art school. She was educated at Tekniska skolan (art college) and the Ladies’ department, at the art academy in Stockholm. When a study course in art for women was later launched in Paris in 1884, several Nordic, female pioneering artists went there, among them Hanna Hirsch, Eva Bonnier, Jenny Nyström and Venny Soldan-Brofeldt from Finland.

It was in Paris where Hanna and Georg fell in love. The couple married in Sweden in 1887. A few years later their children were born; first Torsten, in 1889, then Agneta Pauli’s father Göran, in 1891, and later on, in 1896, their daughter Ruth.

During their period of studies in Paris, the foundation was laid for the lifelong friendship between Hanna Hirsch-Pauli and the Finnish artist and sculptress, Venny Soldan-Brofeldt.

In the “Cher Monsieur – My Fatal Lady” exhibition, the lives, dreams, motives and dilemmas of three artists were shown.

Although the story takes place a hundred years ago, we can relate to what it tells us about the many dimensions and current difficulties facing women and men in their pre-determined gender roles, even today.

The exhibition gave rise to thoughts and lively discussion.

Yvonne Jacobsson
Museum Director

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Thanks to

Riksbankens jubileumsfond
Eva Bonnier
Judiska Biblioteket vid Stockholms Judiska Församling
Kulturfonden för Sverige och Finland
Stockholms Stads Kulturförvaltning

Utställningsansvarig och producent Judiska Museet:
Yvonne Jacobsson, museichef
Utställningscuratorer: Agneta Pauli och Yvonne Jacobsson
Grafisk form: Karl Gabor
Översättningar: Lars Norén
Byggnation, måleri och ljus: Kjell-Åke Westerlund Byggnads AB
Bildvepor mm: XL Media International AB

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pauli_gbgJews break new ground

At the turn of the previous century a number of Jewish personalities appeared on the public stage. Jewish artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and patrons of the arts contributed to the building of Swedish modernity and wellfare. Many of them made considerable contributions to Swedish cultural life.

We recognise their names from literature, music, visual arts and science: Karl Warburg, Henrik Schück, Oscar Levertin, Martin Lamm, Jacob Axel Josephson, Hanna Pauli, Ludvig Ruben, Ernst Josephson, Geskel Salomon, Charlotte Mannheimer, Eva Bonnier and many more. They often belonged to the first generation in their family who were to devote themselves to the beaux arts.

How can one explain that Jews after a hundred years in Sweden suddenly break new ground and become famous? Gunnar Broberg, professor of History of Science and Ideas offers the following explanation: “… this breakthrough did not happen over night, but had been prepared gradually. Decisive was the change of the law in 1870, when Jewish confessors were allowed to hold offi cial positions. Then the needs had been dammed up and the economic means been provided.”

Since this paradigm shift, Jews in Sweden have had the same opportunity as everyone else to freely choose a profession and do what they want to do. Arts and science are still areas that attract many Jews. They are sometimes made into representatives of the Jewish minority. But what characterises Jewish practitioners of the arts at the turn of the previous century – and maybe even today – is their interest in universal values, as well as in artistic freedom. It is likely that Hanna Pauli and her Jewish circle also dreamed of being a part of the whole, and of something bigger.

Can one thus argue that there is a Jewish cultural grouping? What does it, in that case, mean to be a Jew? And what constitutes Jewish culture? The individual and collective preconditions for a Jewish identity, integration and cultural development have indeed altered with time. The tale of these personalities and their art can be viewed as an attempt to investigate these questions, and so get closer to the answers.

Ingrid Lomfors
Associate Professor of History and Director of Göteborg City Museum

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Agneta Pauli’s thoughts about the exhibition

When planning of this exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Stockholm first started, to me Venny Soldan was that young woman modelling in Hanna Hirsch’s painting from Paris. She was a sculptress, who, after returning to Finland, married a writer, and I had read that this Venny had been in Paris at the same time Hanna had been visiting her husband Georg there – in 1913.

In November 2006 director Tuija Wahlroos and exhibition manager Anne Pellin of the Gallen-Kallela Museum in Esbo, Finland, came to see me. They were planning an exhibition from May to October 2007 that would present Nordic artist couples and my grandparents, Hanna and Georg Pauli, would represent Sweden. Among the Finnish artist couples were Venny Soldan-Brofeldt and Juhani Aho. At their visit, I also found out that the friendship between Hanna and Venny had remained, and that letters had been preserved at the Finnish National Archives.

There were some sixty letters dated from June 1886 to March 1940, which covers Hanna’s first year of study in Paris till the last year of her life. While a lot of correspondence from Hanna Pauli to Venny Soldan has been preserved, there is unfortunately very little in the other direction. It is evident that Venny had burnt most of her letters to Hanna as well as some from Hanna to herself, written in the first years of the twentieth century.

On 14 September 2008, some four hundred pages of correspondence were ready to be transcribed and subsequently used to make up this catalogue. Hanna Pauli, my daughter and indispensible collaborator, volunteered to help me complete this gigantic task.

With gratitude, Stockholm, 20 January, 2009
Agneta Pauli

P.S. In Helsinki, at age seventy-eight, I found out that for a quarter of a century I’d been living “round the corner” from Claire Brofeldt, eighty-three, photographer and the youngest grandchild of Venny Soldan-Brofeldt!

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pauli_bla_hannapauli_fastemoHanna Hirsch Pauli

Hanna was the youngest child born into a large musical family, who lived at Stora Nygatan 12, in the old part of Stockholm. Her mother was Pauline Hirsch, née Meyerson. Her father, Abraham Hirsch, was a well-known music publisher and plenty of music was played in the family household.

Hanna’s great talent showed already in the summers of 1874 and ’75 at Dalarö, where the Hirsch family, just like the Bonniers, would spend the warmer part of the year. She filled her small sketch pads with very advanced drawings for her age of the ornate houses at Dalarö.

She became a pupil of August Malmström, who was an excellent teacher of water colour painting. She then went to Tekniska skolan (art college) till the launch of the Art Academy’s female department in 1881.

Hanna received a duke’s medal in 1885. The prize gave her a certain reputation among the Nordic art colony in Paris, where Hanna Hirsch arrived in the autumn of 1885.

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pauli_midsommar

pauli_georgGeorg Pauli

Georg Pauli was born in Jönköping, in 1885. According to his stepmother, a devoted Christian, he was born to be an artist through God’s providence, which he also demonstrated already in his first years at school. In 1871 he applied to Konstakademien (Art Academy) and was accepted to the Preparatory stage.

Georg turned out to be an ambitious student. In 1875, he arrived in Paris and concluded that “a painter will learn more by looking at art than listening to a teacher talking about art”, and was of the opinion that meeting fellow painters such as Carl Larsson, Ernst Josephson, Hugo Birger and others had been the most valuable part of his studies. Paris was his home for ten years.

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pauli_parisateljenVenny Soldan Brofeldt

Born in Helsinki in 1863, and having studied art in Helsinki and St Petersburg, Venny Soldan arrived in Paris in the autumn of 1885. This is where her lifelong friendship with Hanna began, and where the couples-to-be, Hirsch-Pauli and Soldan-Aho, also were to meet.

When I first came to Paris in late summer 1885, I immediately felt at home. At the Gare du Nord railway station, I climbed on board a horse-drawn omnibus.

I at once felt I loved this friendly city. At the address where I was going to stay, I was shown into an attic room with no furniture. At a shop with old things, I bought an iron bed, a larder, an oak table and some chairs.

I hung up my father’s portrait, which I had painted shortly before he died. Then the artist’s home was completed. They were probably not that remarkable, those “academies” that are mentioned in various biographies. Some old model hired a large room and texted “Academie Colarossi” or some other name – and the opening hours of the academy.

Here anybody was allowed to come and draw, after paying a pre-arranged fee in advance, while the owner paid the model and the teacher, who made a flying visit once a week.

At times the teacher was good, at times the teacher was bad and walked around looking at the work, and if he said anything, praised or critisized, it was considered a big honour. Close to the studio there was a small restaurant, where us art students from all over the world would partake of our simple but tasty meals in the company of street sweepers and haulers. In the kitchen ruled an impressively fat and always friendly female cook, with the help of the tiny Juliette, who besides feeding the chickens and the rabbits was also a model.”

Excerpt from the book “Venny Soldan-Brofeldt and her world”,
by Antti J. Aho

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pauli_bettyAnd the story continues…

At Colarossi, Hanna got to know her future, lifelong pen-friend Venny Soldan.

The burgeoning friendship between Venny and Hanna and the fact that they saw more and more of each other was a relief to Eva Bonnier, who had felt great responsibility for “her little sister” Hanna, to whom she had been a designated chaperone during the academy period. Still Eva did not stop watching over her entirely and they often dined together at the colony’s eatery. And then, one late night in November 1885, when Hanna was still a newcomer in Paris, she unknowingly became the subject of an interested observer on her way from the restaurant…

“Look, that’s Hanna Hirsch!” my friend said. “Who’s that?” I asked. “You don’t know Hanna Hirsch? Why, she’s a painter. She’s got talent – unfortunately!” Bob added. The other young lady was Eva Bonnier and these two painters would not only soon be a part of our closest circle of friends, but also the Swedish Art Society from its inauguration.
Excerpts from Georg Pauli’s book, “Pariserpojkarna” (the Paris boys).

 

Soon enough, Georg realised he was falling seriously in love and started courting Hanna, but she remained rather aloof. Georg is persistent and invites Hanna to the yearly “Lacquer Dinner”. From the Barbizon village, Georg takes his next step.

In June, Betty, Hanna’s two-year-older sister, explains her previous wonderment over Hanna’s postponed trip home.

 

Once at home, Hanna’s desire to introduce Georg as her husband-to-be met with a point blank refusal from her father Abraham. Hanna writes to Georg, who is now staying with his parents at Brunkebergstorg.

But despite the polite and mature manners of the now thirty-one-year-old Georg, and despite the fact that sister Betty supported the couple, the answer from father Abraham Hirsch remained – no. And he maintained that Hanna should conduct her continued studies in Paris without the company of Georg. He conceded to be put in a “love quarantine”, in the Pauli home at Brunkebergstorg. Before Hanna returned to her painting in Paris, Georg took her on a sleigh ride to Rosendal, where he proposed. They were now secretly engaged.

When Abraham was reassured of Georg’s sympathetic attitude to the Jewish tradition, her father accedes. The wedding took place on 27 October and then the newlyweds went to Rome.

 

Once back in Sweden it was high time they decorated their first new home together, situated at Glasbruksgatan on the corner of Fjällgatan. Hanna was pregnant, and on 9th January, 1889, their son Torsten was born. In May 1891, the family was expanded with yet another son, Göran.

 

Carl Larsson proposes Georg succeed him when his three-year tenure as prinicpal of the Valand art school in Gothenburg comes to an end. Georg accepted the offer in 1893. Hanna gave birth to her third child, Ruth, in 1896 during their final year in Gothenburg.

 

Back in Stockholm, the Paulis moved to Bellmansgatan, at the turn of the century. When Hanna and Georg had started their own family, the chase for the ideal summer house – with its own studios – started. The search ended in Utö, where the architect à la mode, Ragnar Östberg, joined up and extended some small fisherman’s cottages. In 1905 “Ruthstorp” was completed. A splendid house warming party with Stockholm’s cultural elite was arranged on Georg Pauli’s fiftieth, on 2 July. The date remained a party tradition as late as 1935. “Ruthstorp” was sold after Hanna’s death. It can be seen to this day from the entrance to the Gruvbryggan jetty.

 

The mentor
Active in the circle of Jewish middle-class families at that time was Ellen Key, who taught the children and inspired them to live and think in a modern way.

 

And at the same time their new home is ready to be moved into – the spacious house with a studio each, at Storängen. In the new year 1907, Georg encouraged Hanna to go on a well-deserved long trip to her beloved Italy, to rest, have fun, get inspiration and a renewed will to live. Hanna went to Sicily where Ellen Key was staying.

Hanna met and fell headlong and deeply in love with the lord of a manor in Sicily. And when Venny arrived in March, Hanna was quite shaken.

Venny realised the necessity of making the almost apathetic Hanna come home with her. And at the end of June she succeeded.

 

In 1911 Georg visited the autumn salon in Paris, where the big news was “the Cubists’ room”, And at age fifty-seven he makes a discovery that was to govern his continued artistic life – the painting “Le Port de Bordeaux” (the port of Bordeaux), by the twenty-seven-year-old André Lhote.

“Oh, Georg, how I dearly would love to paint well and really study – I have never done that. or I shall have to give up painting – and the loss to art would be small. Then I would learn about households instead.” Georg then suggests Hanna come to Paris to study.

Hanna followed the advice to study for a teacher in Paris. She knew from the start that she wanted her old student friend Venny to join her. The two artists meet in Paris in 1913. And so the two friends had a winter of studying together. Then Venny returned contented to her home country and Georg lured Hanna to come with him south, where they stayed until June.

A month later, after the shot in Sarajevo, came the outbreak of war, which was to become the first world war for the next four years, and which would put an end to all travel.

Short of public painting assignments, Georg decides to start the art periodical, “Flamman”, as a mouthpiece for ultra modern art, French as well as Swedish, together with Grünewald, GAN (Gösta Adrian-Nilsson) and others.

“Tell me if it would be possible to come to Finland in the summer? When would be best, in case I can decide on a tour of that kind.”

For Hanna there is no journey to Venny during this year, which regrettably was to be the final year for Betty Hirsch, as she in an unexpectedly short time wastes away in a tumour illness.

The whole family and all the friends grieve for their “Aunty” Betty. Georg comforts Hanna, and encourages her to continue working on the selfportraits she has started and on her first separate show. “Hanna had welldeserved success, which to a high degree strengthened her will to live,” Georg to Venny in December 1923.

 

Her sixtieth, on 13 January 1924, Hanna celebrates with Georg in Rome, where Prince Eugen was already staying. Hanna made a self portrait in front of the mirror in her little hotel room, signed just on her sixtieth.

 

For the disciplined busy bee Georg, writing grew more and more important as he got older, and he ventured back in time, to the art history of his own generation.

From Georg’s grey notebook, 1930:
“I have collected my artists’ letters the way one collects souvenirs… And then I wrote my books of chronicles – not to be mistaken for memoirs.”

 

In 1933, Hanna, Georg and Prince Eugen show their works in a joint exhibition at the Art Academy, in Stockholm.

Prince Eugen says to Hanna, on her seventieth, 13 Jan 1934:
…Yes, and then Hanna says she no longer sees well enough to paint. No, I frankly think Hanna can see all too well, for her portraits distinguish themselves by likeness – yes are even more alike than the original!”

 

Georg passed away on 28 November, 1935.

Hanna writes to Venny: “…But once and for all I would like to confess that this last year has been an inferno… I am very lonely as my children are busy, each with their own, and my thoughts go and wander in all kinds of directions, very often to Apollogatan in Finland’s capital.”

 

The second world war breaks out, and Hanna is worried about the growing anti-semitism and the ravages of the Nazis.

Her son Göran and his wife Lisa had been killed on 1 March in a road accident.

“Storängen 26 March ‘40
Dear old friend
…Well, now is the end and how? It has grieved me so – everything happens, one after the other…

In the summer I plan to stay in Utö alone for a time and then bring my parentless grandchildren there.” This Hanna writes to Venny on 26 March, 1940.

In the years following Georg’s death, Hanna works on commissioned portraits. She spends her summers in Utö, where her children and grandchildren come to visit.

Hanna Pauli passed away on 29 December, 1940.

 

Agneta Pauli wrote posthumously to her grandmother:
“You said you believed that I was the one of the grandchildren that would be working with art, since you thought I was “original in an intelligent way”. A judgement that obliged and influenced my choice of profession, and resulted in this exhibition.”

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Walking through the exhibition

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