Else Berg and Mommie Schwarz  23 February 2012

Artist couple in the Dutch avant-garde

From 23 March until 24 June 2012 the JHM presents the first exhibition surveying the work of Else Berg and Mommie Schwarz. These husband-and-wife artists lived and worked in the Netherlands from 1910 to 1942 and were strongly influenced by a variety of national and international avant-garde art movements. The JHM has brought together more than eighty of their paintings and drawings, as well as a small selection of works by contemporaries who inspired them, such as Leo Gestel, Jan Sluijters, and Charley Toorop.

Else Berg (1877-1942), born in Upper Silesia when it was part of Germany, always enjoyed success as a painter. The paintings of Samuel Leser (Mommie) Schwarz (1876-1942), who came from the Dutch town of Zutphen, were not fully appreciated until the late 1920s, when he was in his fifties. After his death his work was more or less forgotten, but recent years have seen a renewal of interest.

Berg and Schwarz were in a very close relationship from 1909 onwards. They took many trips abroad, together and separately. During their travels they produced numerous paintings and drawings, which show the depth of their mutual influence. Their stylistic similarities are occasionally so pronounced that it is difficult or impossible to tell their work apart.

Starting in 1914 they often spent time in the area around Bergen, North Holland. There they were part of the Bergen School, an expressionist movement in Dutch painting. Berg and Schwarz were also active participants in the Amsterdam art scene.

After the Second World War broke out, it quickly become impossible for them to exhibit their work. They both refused to wear a Star of David or to go into hiding. On 12 November 1942 they were taken into custody and sent by way of the Dutch transit camp in Westerbork to Auschwitz, where they were murdered immediately upon arrival.

The exhibition Else Berg and Mommie Schwarz: Artist couple in the Dutch avant-garde presents work from the JHM collection alongside paintings, drawings, and prints from a range of lenders, including the Stedelijk Museum, the Singer Museum, and private collectors. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated book by Linda Horn, published by Uitgeverij de Kunst, which includes a survey of their work and biographies of the two artists (Dutch-language publication / ISBN 978 94 91196 18 8 / €35 / available at the JHM Museum Shop and any Dutch bookshop).

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