Grind not glamour
“Chorus Girls”

Jeanne Mammen (1890 – 1976)

Painting by Jeanne Mammen, oil on cardboard, 64 x 47 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

This oil painting shows two chorus dancers of the 1920s in head-and-shoulders profile. The one in front has her eyes closed. Both have short hair and striking faces. Their pale skin, see-through pink hats and dresses and red lipstick stand out against the dark background.

In the pleasure-hungry Berlin of the 1920s, theatres vied for attention with spectacular variety shows. Chorus girls in scanty costumes provided an erotic touch. As links in the chain of swinging legs, they were usually depicted as a type, not as individuals. But the two women in “Chorus Girls” by Jeanne Mammen (1890–1976) could hardly be more different. The artist centres on their weary faces, sallow skin and garish lipstick. The real attraction – the dancers’ long-limbed bodies – are only visible down to the breast. They pause for breath, no trace of glamour here.

Mammen, a free-lance artist and a prototype of the emancipated “New Woman”, often highlighted female clichés of the day. The chorus girl in front has the facial features of the artist. The figure behind resembles her sister Mimi.

Chorus Girls
Oil on cardboard
64 x 47 cm
Acquired with funds from the Foundation DKLB, Berlin 1977

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