Maria Mela Muter (1876 – 1967)

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Lot 3246 – A181 Impressionist & Modern Art – Friday 30 June 2017 02.00 PM

MELA MUTER

(Warsaw 1876 – 1967 Paris)

Nature morte au panier de pomme.

Oil on panel.

Signed upper right: Muter.

60.5 x 49.5 cm.

Provenance:
– Collection Oscar Ghez, Geneva.
– Private property, Switzerland.

In 1901 the Polish-Jewish artist Mela Muter (actually Maria Melena Mutermilch) went to Paris, where she spent the majority of her life and made acquaintances with various artists and intellectuals of the Parisian bourgeoisie. Among them were the architect August Perret, who designed her house, and Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she maintained a close relationship and whose last love was Mela Muter. The artist, generally known as an extremely charismatic person, enjoyed great popularity in Montparnasse. She first made a name through her portraits of her vast and famous circle of friends. She additionally produced still lifes and, as a counterbalance to the portraits of the upper class, she often painted scenes from the lives of the poor and marginalised, a recurring theme being that of mother and child. In 1902, along with Suzanne Valadon, Berthe Morisot and Marie Laurencin, the young Mela Muter participated as one of the few women in the famous salons in Paris. On account of her Jewish faith, she was forced to flee to a foreign country during World War II and returned in the mid-1940s. Afterwards, her prominence began to decline and the gifted artist was barely able to keep afloat financially. Various misfortunes, such as the loss of her mother and sister, the murder of her beloved Raymond Lefebvre by Stalin, and the severe bone disease of her son followed by his suicide, led to her conversion to Catholicism. In the 1960s, when she was able to sell around 70 paintings at prices up to 60,000 marks, Mela Muter gave the proceeds, as well as her entire estate, to the SOS Children’s Villages.

Her work is distinguished by her own recognisable, characteristic style, influenced by the strong lines of Van Gogh and Cezanne. In creating her paintings, she had a particular technique in which she left specific areas of the canvas bare and unpainted. Although Mela Muter is mainly known for her portraits, she always insisted on making no distinction between portrait and still life. “I don’t wonder if the person before my easel is good, bad, generous, intelligent. I try to master them and to represent them just like a flower, a tomato or a tree.”

Her work was shown in various exhibitions before the Second World War, and the name Mela Muter was known in the art scene. Afterwards, she was somewhat forgotten. Her legacy, however, remains preserved in that her works are represented in various large museums throughout the world.

CHF 25 000 / 35 000 € 23 150 / 32 410. Koller. 06/30/17

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