Face to Face

Lotte Laserstein first made a name for herself in the thriving art scene of the Weimar era. Her career came to an abrupt halt in 1937 when she was forced to flee Germany for Sweden, where she fell into oblivion. The aim of this exhibition is to put Laserstein’s œuvre back in the spotlight.


About the exhibition

The Städel Museum in Frankfurt am Main presents a comprehensive solo exhibition with works by the painter Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993). Laserstein’s oeuvre is one of the great recent art historical rediscoveries and features sensitive and compelling portraits from the final years of the Weimar Republic. The exhibition builds upon works from the collection of the Städel Museum, which in the past few years was successful in acquiring important works by the artist, including the paintings “Russian Girl with Compact” from 1928 and “Boy with Kasper Puppet (Wolfgang Karger)” from 1933. With approximately forty paintings and drawings, the exhibition focusses on Laserstein’s artistic development. Emphasis is placed on works from the 1920s and 30s, which mark the peak of her artistic work. “Lotte Laserstein. Face to Face” is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Germany outside of Berlin.

An exhibition organised by the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, in cooperation with the Berlinische Galerie.

Picture: Lotte Laserstein, Russian Girl, c. 1928, Oil on panel, 32 x 23 cm, Collection of Linda Sutton and Roger Cooper, London, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

Supported by Ernst Max von Grunelius Stiftung, Rudolf-August Oetker Stiftung and Friede Springer Stiftung.
With additional support from The City of Frankfurt am Main
Social Media The Städel Museum communicates the exhibition in social media with the hashtag #LotteLaserstein.

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Audio Guide

Audio Guide

  • Meret Becker (© Joachim Gern)

Explore the work of an extraordinary artist with the audio guide to the exhibition. The audio commentary takes you on a journey through the Berlin of the 1920s and 1930s.

Available as app for smartphones free of charge or device rental at the ticket desk for 4.50 euros.
Audio tour with information (audio tracks and pictures) on 19 artworks, about 60 minutes.


Worth Knowing

Worth Knowing


Laserstein’s paintings stand in close stylistic proximity to the New Objectivity, but they do not quite fit into this art historical category. Although there are similarities to this art movement in terms of subject matter and attitude in the painter’s works, Laserstein’s style of painting is neither objectively undercooled nor socially critical, as is typical of the New Objectivity. Her painting style always remains realistic, with a partially late-Impressionistic, loose brushstroke and a carefully composed pictorial composition.

Overall, the influence of her academic education – to which women had only just begun to gain access – is clearly recognisable in her works, which is why her style can be described as academic realism. Although traditional with regard to technique, her pictures were of great topicality in terms of content.


Lotte Laserstein’s favoured subject is the human being in all its many facets, which is why she devoted herself primarily to portraiture. In her portraits, she brilliantly depicts the people of the interwar period, such as in “Girl Lying on Blue” (1931) or “The Mongolian” (1927), whereby her works are characterised by sobriety, modernity and psychological depth. In her oeuvre, there are also motifs that speak of the enthusiasm of the time for technology and sports, although these are much fewer in number.

In her portraits, Laserstein paints types from modern everyday life: athletic women, young girls putting on make-up, a motorcyclist in full gear and fashionably dressed city dwellers. She drafts a type of emancipated urban woman who moves freely and confidently in the public sphere without male accompaniment. This contemporary image of the “New Woman” is of particular interest to her. Portraits of women thus comprise the greater part of her artistic production, and rarely does she paint portraits of men.

Her Model Traute Rose

In addition to herself and professional models at the academy, Laserstein repeatedly portrays her long-time muse and friend Gertrud Rose (née Süssenbach), called Traute, who embodies the type of the “New Woman” as it was downright propagated in the media during the interwar years, and is thus an ideal model. Rose – like Laserstein herself – corresponds to the ideal of the times: an androgynous, athletic, emancipated young lady with bob and loose-fitting clothes.

In contrast to conventional representations of female models by male artists, in which the woman becomes an objectified vis-à-vis of the painter, Laserstein’s paintings testify to the close relationship between the two friends, which was based on trust and equality. Laserstein maintained a close, lifelong friendship with Traute Rose, who remained in Germany, and the two corresponded extensively during the artist’s time in Sweden.

Biographical Details

Lotte Laserstein, born in East Prussia in 1898, grew up in a bourgeois environment. After the premature death of her father, her mother moved with her and her younger sister Käte to their widowed grandmother in Gdansk. She received her first drawing lessons in 1908 from her aunt Elsa Birnbaum, who ran a private painting school. From 1921 to 1927, she attended the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, where she was one of the first women to complete her master studies. Through her participation in the spring exhibition of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1928, she received widespread recognition and sold her first work to a public institution, namely the Berlin City Council. The painting “In the Tavern” (1927) was later confiscated as “degenerate art” within the context of National Socialist propaganda.

Since the late 1920s, Laserstein participated regularly in various exhibitions. She soon succeeded in building a reputation, and the arts pages and critics wrote downright eulogistically about her art. In 1928, Laserstein participated in the competition “The Most Beautiful German Portrait of a Woman”, organized by the cosmetics company Elida in cooperation with the Reich Association of Visual Artists. Out of the 365 works submitted, the painting “Russian Girl with Compact”, now in the collection of the Städel Museum, was nominated for the final round and exhibited together with twenty-five works by almost exclusively male artists in the prestigious gallery of Fritz Gurlitt in Berlin, where her first solo exhibition also took place in 1931.

After the seizure of power by the National Socialists, Laserstein’s nascent career ended abruptly. She was dismissed from the board of the Association of Berlin Women Artists and was only able to exhibit in 1935 within the frameworks of the Kulturbund Deutscher Juden (Cultural League of German Jews). The small painting school, which she had run for financial security since 1927, was also forced to close. Political restrictions made her living and working conditions increasingly difficult. An exhibition in the Galerie Moderne in Stockholm in 1937 offered her the opportunity to leave Germany. Although Laserstein remained extremely productive in Swedish exile and made her living through commissioned work, she was unable to recapture her early success, and her work largely disappeared from public perception.


  • + More
    Russian Girl with Compact (1928)

    Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993)

    Russian Girl with Compact, 1928
    Oil on panel
    31,7 x 41 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

  • + More
    Morning Toilette (1930)

    Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993)

    Morning Toilette, 1930
    Oil on panel, 99,7 x 65,1 cm
    National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
    Gift of the Board of Directors
    Photo: Courtesy of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

  • + More
    Girl Lying on Blue (c. 1931)

    Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993)

    Girl Lying on Blue, c. 1931
    Oil on paper, 69 x 93 cm
    Private collection, courtesy of DAS VERBORGENE MUSEUM, Berlin
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

  • + More
    Mongolian (c. 1927)

    Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993)

    Mongolian, c. 1927
    Oil on panel, 27,1 x 21,8 cm
    Private collection
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

  • + More
    Self-Portrait in the Studio Friedrichsruher Straße (c. 1927)

    Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993)

    Self-Portrait in the Studio Friedrichsruher Straße, c. 1927
    Oil on canvas, 32 x 42 cm
    On loan from a private collection, Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

  • + More
    Boy with Kasper Puppet (1933)

    Lotte Laserstein (1898–1993)

    Boy with Kasper Puppet (Wolfgang Karger), 1933
    Oil on panel, 46 x 38 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt
    Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
    © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019



The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Prestel Verlag with 192 pages and 159 colour illustrations. With contributions by Valentina Bay, Alexander Eiling, Anna-Carola Krausse, Kristina Lemke, Annelie Lütgens, Maureen Ogrocki, Kristin Schroeder, Elena Schroll and Philipp von Wehrden. German / English. 39.90 € (museum edition).

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