Else Lasker-Schuler: Double Talent-Drawings

Thebes with Jussuf
Thebes with Jussuf, 1922
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Lasker-Schüler's drawings are enduring testimony to her double talent as a poet and artist and of her conviction that word and image are mutually reinforcing. She produced watercolors, pastels and collages throughout her life, and she illustrated several of her books. Beginning in the 1920s, when her son fell ill with tuberculosis — he died in 1927 — her artwork provided most of her income.

Nowhere is this interconnection of word and image more evident than in Lasker-Schüler's letters, where hearts and stars are inserted in the midst of words and between lines and little drawings of an oasis or the profiles of exotic faces adorn the page. The book Theben (Thebes), consisting of 10 poems and 10 lithographs, with 50 of the 250 copies hand-colored by the artist, is part of her artistic legacy. Beginning in 1916, exhibitions of her graphic works were organized by art galleries in Berlin and by private collectors such as Karl Ernst Osthaus in Hagen. In 1920, twenty-three of her drawings were given by collector friends to the Berlin National Gallery.

Snake Charmer in the Theban Marketplace
Snake Charmer in the Thebes marketplace,
c. 1912.
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In her stories and poems, Lasker-Schüler created an Orientalist fantasy world . . . a self-created fantasy world of beauty, passion, and cruelty. The story "I Am Dancing in the Mosque" from the collection The Nights of Tino of Baghdad, 1907, is an Orientalist Art Nouveau dream, its language an attempt to imitate dance rhythms. Since the poet's native German cannot itself convey this poetic Orient, Lasker-Schüler resorts to Arabic language particles that are repeated rhythmically.

Lasker-Schüler's favorite biblical figure was Joseph, with whom she identified as an interpreter of dreams, that is, a poet, misunderstood by his own people for whom he cared and whom he rescued. After assuming the persona of the Oriental princess Tino, she created for herself the role of Jussuf, Prince of Thebes, around 1910. He personified the ideal in which art and power were finally united. Jussuf is a unique persona, neither Jewish nor Muslim, male nor female, and eternally



excerpted Barnes and Noble linkFrom: Bauschinger, Sigrid. "The Berlin Moderns: Else Lasker-Schüler and Café Culture" in Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture 1890-1918. Copyright © 1999 by The Regents of the University of California; Copyright © 1999 The Jewish Museum, New York Under the auspices of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). pp. 75, 77. Permission of University of California Press.



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