A conversation between Philippe de Montebello and Renée Price, Director of The Neue Galerie New York, about the exhibition “The Self-Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann,” which is on view through June 24, 2019.

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GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'NYC-ARTS.' I'M PAULA ZAHN AT THE TISCH WNET STUDIO IN NEW YORK.

LOCATED IN RENOVATED BEAUX ARTS MANSION, THE MUSEUM WAS FOUNDED BY TWO CLOSE FRIENDS.

CURRENTLY ON VIEW IS THE EXHIBITION THE SELF-PORTRAIT FROM SHEILA TO BECKMAN WHICH FOCUSES ON WORKS CREATED IN THE FIRST FOUR DECADES OF THE 20th CENTURY.

THE SELF-PORTRAIT HAS TRANSCENDED THE AGES FROM THE OLD MASTERS TO TODAY AND REACHED NEW HEIGHTS IN AUSTRIA AND GERMANY DURING THIS TIME.

ABOUT 70 SELF PORTRAITS BY MORE THAN 30 ARTISTS ARE ON VIEW HERE.

SOME ARE BY WELL-KNOWN FIGURES SUCH AS MAX BECKMAN.

OTHERS ARE WORKS BY ARTISTS THAT DESERVE GREATER RECOGNITION.

THESE INCLUDE SOME OF THE OUTSTANDING WORKS BY WOMEN SUCH AS PAULA BECKER AND CASA KOLVETZ.

MY XLEEG, PHILIPPE de MONTEBELLOW, RECENTLY SPOKE WITH DIRECTOR RENEE PRICE.

I'M WITH RENEE PRICE, THE DIRECTOR OF THE GALLERY, IN THE MIDST OF THE NEW EXHIBITION THAT IS DEVOTED TO THE SELF-PORTRAIT.

AND IT COVERS BASICALLY THE PERIOD OF TIME BETWEEN THE TWO GREAT WARS.

MY FIRST QUESTION TO YOU IS WHY IS THIS PERIOD OF TIME FOR ARTISTS FROM GERMANY AND AUSTRIA SO CRITICAL?

I THINK ARTISTS ARE LIKE PSYCHOGRAPHS.

THEY'RE REACTING TO THEIR SURROUNDINGS.

THIS WAS A VERY TUMULTUOUS TIME IN GERMANY AND AUSTRIA, AND I THINK YOU'RE ALSO SEEING THAT THE ARTISTS ARE MORE CONFIDENT TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES, AND THEY'RE LOOKING FOR A MODERN WAY TO DO THAT.

THEY'RE LOOKING TO BREAK FROM THE ACADEMIC TRADITION AND TO CREATE A NEW VISUAL VOCABULARY.

THE SELF-PORTRAIT SAYS A GREAT DEAL, OF COURSE, ABOUT INTROSPECTION, THE ARTIST LOOKING AT HIMSELF OR HERSELF.

BUT SURELY IT ALSO GOES BEYOND, IT'S USING ONESELF TO EXPRESS A BIGGER STORY THAN ONESELF.

YES, IT'S BOTH.

THESE WERE TIMES OF ECONOMIC WOES AND OBVIOUSLY WHEN YOU ARE YOUR OWN MODEL, IT'S THE LEAST EXPENSIVE WAY OF SHOWING A FIGURE.

THE MODEL IS ALWAYS WITH YOU.

THE MODEL IS ALWAYS WITH YOU AND ALWAYS HAS A VERY FAVORABLE RATE.

MANY OF THESE ARTISTS FLOURISHED WITH THIS IDEA OF THE SELF-PORTRAIT.

THEY COULD HAVE A CERTAIN VERACITY.

AND THEY WERE LOOKING FOR A TRUTH.

THEY WERE OBVIOUSLY DEPICTING THEMSELVES IN THEIR SURROUNDINGS, IN THE TIME THAT THEY LIVED IN.

SO THEY BECOME VERY IMPORTANT HISTORIC DOCUMENTS AS WELL.

IF YOU GO AROUND THIS EXHIBITION, IT GOES BEYOND THE TRUTH.

THEY ARE SINGULARLY UNFLATTERING TO THEMSELVES.

WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR THAT?

I MEAN, HUMAN BEINGS ARE QUITE NATURALLY NARCISSISTIC.

BUT HERE THERE'S A KIND OF CRUEL, CLINICAL LOOK AT ONESELF THAT IS MOST INTERESTING.

THEY DID NOT WANT TO IDEALIZE THEMSELVES.

THEY WEREN'T LIVING IN IDEALIZED CIRCUMSTANCES.

MOST OF THEM VOLUNTEERED TO GO TO WAR AND THEY CAME BACK WITH THE TRAUMA OF THAT.

THEY HAD TO DEAL WITH THAT AND PAINTING SELF PORTRAITS IS ONE WAY OF DOING THAT.

YOUR BOOK ENDS IN TERMS OF THE TITLE IS SHEELY AND BECKMAN, BOTH OF THEM, AND YOU HAD A NUMBER OF ETCHINGS OF REMBRANDT, THEY PAINT THEMSELVES IN DIFFERENT TIMES AND DIFFERENT GUISES.

ARE THEY THE TWO GREAT ARTISTS OF THE PERIOD?

THEY ARE GREAT ARTISTS OF THE PERIOD.

ONE IS AUSTRIAN, ONE IS GERMAN.

WE ARE A MUSEUM FOR GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN ART.

SHEELY BEING THE AUSTRIAN, MAX BECKMAN THE GERMAN.

THEY WERE BOTH OF THE SAME GENERATION.

THEY WERE BOTH CONVINCED THEY WERE EXTRAORDINARILY TALENTED ARTISTS.

THERE IS A VERY PROFOUND PSYCHOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION THAT ONE FINDS IN THESE PORTRAITS.

CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT SHEELY'S LIFE AND HOW MAYBE THAT IS REFLECTED IN THIS PORTRAIT?

IGAN SHEELY IS I THINK THE FIRST ARTIST WHO DID NOT MAKE METICULOUS ETCHINGS OR PAINTINGS BUT DID THIS COMPLETE OUTBURSTS ENTIRE BODY FOR THAT.

THAT WAS EXTREMELY MODERN.

HE ALSO DIDN'T BELIEVE THAT THERE WAS ONE OF HIM BUT THAT HE CONSISTED OF MANY MYSTERIOUS ELEMENTS, AND HE LUSTED TO EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING.

SHEELY MADE AT LEAST 240 SELF-PORTRAITS THAT WE KNOW OF.

IT WAS A TENTH OF HIS ENTIRE OUTPUT.

AND HE DIED WHEN HE WAS 28.

OF AN ILLNESS.

HE DIED OF THE SPANISH FLU, YES.

NOW, BECKMAN IS A CONTEMPORARY OF SHEELY.

HE IS THE GERMAN ARTIST.

AND THE SPAN OF TIME IS A MUCH WIDER ONE, WHEN IT TAKES US ALL THE WAY FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR THROUGH THE SECOND WORLD WAR, EVEN TO BECKMAN IN NEW YORK.

CORRECT.

IN WHAT WAY CAN WE STUDY REALLY THE BIOGRAPHY OF BECKMAN THROUGH THESE PORTRAITS, AND IS THAT SOMETHING YOU TRIED TO DO IN MOUNTING THIS SHOW?

BECKMAN WAS A MEDICAL ORDERLY IN WORLD WAR I AND HE HAD A BREAKDOWN.

HE HAD TO RECUPERATE IN FRANKFURT.

HE WANT TO PARIS.

HE WAS SO CONVINCED HIS TALENT WAS SO GREAT THAT HE CALLED HIMSELF AN ART MACHINE.

AND WE ARE SHOWING WORKS FROM THE VARIOUS STAGES OF HIS LIFE.

THE FIRST PAINTING WE SHOW, ACTUALLY, IS CALLED THE FAMILY, WHERE YOU SEE HIM IN A VERY CRAMPED ROOM.

AND YOU SEE SYMBOLS.

HE NEVER LIKED TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF.

HE SAID, IF I WANTED TO EXPLAIN WHAT I'M DOING, I WOULD HAVE BECOME A WRITER.

HE LIKED THAT MYSTERY AND INTERPRETATION THAT WAS POSSIBLE.

SO IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY AT THE FAMILY, YOU SEE THAT HE'S RECLINING AND HIS WIFE AT THE TIME WAS LOOKING IN THE MIRROR AND THE CANDLE BETWEEN THEM HAS BEEN BLOWN OUT.

AND THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF WONDERFUL DETAILS IN THIS PICTURE.

HIS SON IS READING A COMIC BOOK.

AND THEY'RE ALL CRAMMED INTO THE SPACE AND EVERYBODY IS IN THEIR OWN ISOLATION.

AND THAT'S REALLY AN INTERESTING MESSAGE THERE.

THIS MAX BECKMAN PORTRAIT OF 1938 IS ONE OF THE KEY WORKS IN THE COLLECTION OF THE GALLERY.

AND IT WAS STARTED IN 1933, WHEN HE HAD A DIFFERENT, HAPPIER EXPRESSION IN HIS FACE.

BUT THEN BETWEEN '33 AND '38, MUCH HAPPENED.

HE WAS DISMISSED FROM HIS JOB AND OF COURSE HE WAS ALSO ONE OF THE DEGENERATE ARTISTS THAT THE NAZIS VILIFIED.

HE KNEW HE HAD NO PLACE AND NO CAREER IN GERMANY.

BECKMAN PORTRAYS HIMSELF HERE AS SOMEBODY WHO IS ABOUT TO MAYBE BLOW ON THAT HORN AND TO WARN US OF THE DISASTERS THAT WERE IMMINENT.

THAT MAKES THIS AN HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT PAINTING AND THE ROLE OF THE ARTIST IN THIS CONTEXT IS AMPLIFIED.

WE HAVE SAID 'HE' MANY TIMES.

BUT WE COULD ALSO SAY 'SHE, ' BECAUSE REVEALED TO US IN THIS EXHIBITION ARE A NUMBER OF VERY STRIKING WORKS BY WOMEN ARTISTS.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT SOMETHING ABOUT THEM AND THEIR PLACE IN THE ART OF THE TIME.

IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT FOR WOMEN TO RECEIVE AN ART EDUCATION IN THAT TIME.

WOMEN WERE NOT PERMITTED TO ATTEND ACADEMIES BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT ALLOWED TO BE EXPOSED TO NUDE MALE MODELS.

IF A WOMAN WANTED TO BECOME AN ARTIST IN GERMANY IN THE EARLY 20th CENTURY, SHE HAD TO GO TO PARIS TO STUDY MODERN MASTERS AND TO STUDY THE NUDE.

AND ONE GREAT EXAMPLE IS PAULA MORRISON BECKER.

WE HAD HERE A VERY IMPORTANT SELF-PORTRAIT FROM 1906 THAT SHOWS HER IN HER STUDIO IN PARIS.

AND IT'S THE FIRST TIME THAT A WOMAN HAS PAINTED HERSELF NOT ONLY WITHOUT CLOTHES OR VERY LITTLE CLOTHES, BUT ALSO PREGNANT.

WE KNOW THAT THIS IS A SYMBOLIC PREGNANCY BUT NEVERTHELESS, AS FAR AS WE KNOW, THIS HAS NOT HAPPENED BEFORE 1906.

IS THIS IN A SENSE A MESSAGE TO HER HUSBAND, LOOK, LET'S HAVE SOME KIDS?

BECAUSE SHE IS NOT PREGNANT, WE KNOW THAT BY THE DATE.

AT THE TIME THAT SHE PAINTED THAT, SHE HAD SEPARATED FROM HER HUSBAND.

AND SHE WAS IN PARIS ON HER OWN, AND SHE WAS CERTAINLY THINKING ABOUT HAVING A CHILD.

AND IT MIGHT BE A PROJECTION FOR THE FUTURE.

THERE'S ANOTHER MORRISON BECKER, CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THAT?

YES.

THIS IS FROM THE FOLLOWING YEAR, 1907, WHEN PAULA MORRISON BECKER IS IN A HAPPIER PLACE.

SHE RECONCILED WITH HER HUSBAND.

SHE IS INDEED PREGNANT.

SHE'S HOLDING OUT FLOWERS AS A KIND OF WELCOME.

SHE ALSO, AS WE KNOW, LOOKED VERY CLOSELY, NOT JUST AT MODERN ART IN PARIS, BUT AT THE LOUVRE SHE SAW THE EGYPTIAN MUMMY PORTRAITS AND THESE BIG EYES AND THIS SIMPLICITY IS SOMETHING THAT MATTERED VERY MUCH TO HER.

AND UNFORTUNATELY, THREE WEEKS AFTER SHE GAVE BIRTH TO THAT BABY GIRL, SHE DIED OF AN EMBOLISM SO HER CAREER WAS CUT SHORT.

AND SHE DIED AT THE AGE OF 31.

HOW ABOUT KITTY KOLVITZ?

ANOTHER GIANT ARTIST AT THIS TIME.

SHE DID CLOSE TO 100 SELF-PORTRAITS.

ACTUALLY, DESPITE THE MALE-DOMINATED ART WORLD IN BERLIN, HER ACHIEVEMENTS WERE ACKNOWLEDGED AND SHE WAS THE FIRST FEMALE PROFESSOR AT THE PRUSSIAN ART ACADEMY IN 1919, THE YEAR THAT WOMEN WERE ALLOWED TO VOTE IN GERMANY.

THE CHARCOAL SELF-PORTRAIT IS REALLY VERY GRIPPING.

SHE WAS LOOKING STRAIGHT INTO THE MIRROR AND STRAIGHT AT THE VIEWER, WITH A STARK CONTRAST OF THE DARK AND THE LIGHT.

AND SHE'S NOT FLATTERING HERSELF.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT KOLVITZ WAS CONSISTENT ABOUT.

SHE WAS A REALIST AND SHE SHOWED HERSELF WITH ALL HER WRINKLES.

AND ACTUALLY THAT HAS A BEAUTY ALL OF ITS OWN.

I THINK ONE OF THE MOST MOVING, BECAUSE OF ITS HISTORICAL AND REAL CONNOTATIONS, IS THE SELF-PORTRAIT BY FELIX NUSSBAUM.

YES.

THIS IS THE MOST POIGNANT WORK IN THE EXHIBITION.

NUSSBAUM WAS A GERMAN JEWISH STUDENT IN ROME, ON A SCHOLARSHIP, WHEN IN 1933, HE REALIZED HE COULD NOT GO BACK TO GERMANY WHEN HITLER TOOK POWER.

REALLY IN HIDING.

HE WENT TO BELGIUM WHERE HE WAS APPREHENDED AND SENT TO AN INTERNMENT CAMP.

SO THE FIRST PAINTING WE'RE SHOWING, HE PAINTED AFTER HE WAS ABLE TO BE RELEASED FROM THIS CAMP.

AND YOU SEE THE FEAR IN THE ARTIST AS HE'S RE-TELLING THAT TALE.

IT'S REPORTAGE.

THE LAST SELF-PORTRAIT IS FROM 1943.

YOU REALLY FEEL THAT HE'S TRAPPED.

THE COLLAR IS TURNED UP.

HE'S SHOWING THE STAR OF DAVID THAT HE HAD TO WEAR, HE'S SHOWING HIS JEWISH IDENTITY CARD.

AND HE HAS MARKED OUT WHERE HE'S FROM BECAUSE HE DOESN'T KNOW ANYMORE WHERE HE BELONGS.

BUT THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF HOPE BECAUSE YOU SEE A TREE WITH CUT BRANCHES BEYOND THAT WALL, AND ONE BRANCH HAS BLOSSOMS ON IT AND THERE ARE SOME BIRDS.

THAT GIVES YOU A SENSE OF HOPE.

BUT HE WAS APPREHENDED BY THE NAZIS AND THEN HE WAS MURDERED IN AUSCHWITZ AS WERE HIS ENTIRE FAMILY BY THE END OF 1944.

SO IT'S TRULY A SELF-PORTRAIT WITH A MOST TRAGIC ENDING.

SO YES, THROUGH THE SELF-PORTRAIT, THROUGH THAT EXAMINATION OF ONE'S OWN FEATURES WITHIN ONE'S OWN SURROUNDINGS, THIS IS AN EXHIBITION THAT TELLS A GREAT DEAL ABOUT, AS YOU SAID EARLIER, THE TUMULTUOUS HISTORY OF THE TIME.

IT'S A FASCINATING EXHIBITION, AND SO MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM IT, AND SO DIRECTLY MOVING, BECAUSE IT IS A PORTRAIT, REALLY, OF AN EPOCH, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, RENEE PRICE, DIRECTOR OF THE GALLERY, FOR THIS WONDERFUL TOUR.

THANK YOU.