Life? or Theater?

Charlotte Salomon, Detail from Life? or Theatre? A Play with Music, 1941–42, gouache on paper, Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam.

Charlotte Salomon was a German-Jewish artist born in Berlin. She is primarily remembered as the creator of an autobiographical series of paintings Life? or Theater?: A Play with Music. This early example of a graphic novel format comprises seven hundred and sixty-nine gouaches,  three hundred and forty transparent overlays of text; a narrative of thirty-two thousand words; and multiple classical-music cues. Created between 1941 and 1943 while Salomon was in hiding from the Nazis, this work reveals a vivid self-portrait spanning every facet of Salomon’s existence from a complicated family life, growing up in Berlin, the rise of the Nazis, to her exile to France.

In this painting, the young Charlotte is shown waiting for the angel of her mother to arrive at the window because her mother has told her that she will send word from the “celestial spheres” when she ascends after her suicide.


Common Era; a notation used in place of A.D. ("Anno Domini") for years in the current calendar era, about the last 2,000 years.

general condition of living away from ones homeland or specifically the Babylonian captivity

A written, spoken, or recorded story.

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