Portrait de Tatjana Barbakoff (Portrait of Tatjana Barbakoff), 1929
In 1925, both the Swiss artist Niklaus Stoecklin and his Latvian subject Tatjana Barbakoff began their rise to international fame. Stoecklin was the only non-German artist to take part in the first Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) exhibition at the Mannheim Kunsthalle, while Barbakoff, a Jewish dancer, presented her first individual programme in Berlin. This was for her the first step to a successful career in the German-speaking world, cut short by exile in Paris in 1933. She was arrested by the Gestapo in Nice in 1944 and deported to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chambers the same year.
The portrait brings together two seemingly very different temperaments. Barbakoff’s performances were expressionist, closer to pantomime than to dance. Her shows featured a series of decorative tableaux and satires on contemporary art (Dadaismus, Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit), in which self-designed Oriental costumes and masks played a key role. In the 1920s, Stoecklin’s art formed part of a broader reaction against expressionism, drawing on a form of magic realism typified by symbolist verismo devoid of social critique.
Tatjana Barbakoff gave a much-admired performance in Zurich in November 1929. The pictoriality of her poses and her very mobile face inspired Stoecklin’s portrait, as well as several of Gregor Rabinovitch’s prints. They were the last in a long line of artists and photographers who took her as their model. As early as 1924, she sat for the members of Das Junge Rheinland group gathered around Johanna Ey, followed by many expressionist painters and sculptors including her partner Gert Heinrich Wollheim, Waldemar Flaig, Helen Dahm, and Christian Rohlfs, whose house she visited in Ascona in 1931 and who produced a vast cycle of drawings of her.
Exposé actuellementThe Collection
Günter Goebbels, Hildegard Reinhardt et alii, Tatjana Barbakoff. Tänzerin und Muse, exh. cat. Bonn, August Macke Haus, 2002.
Christoph Vögele, Niklaus Stoecklin 1896-1982, exh. cat. Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Fribourg-en-Brisgau, Museum für Neue Kunst, 1997.