Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker

Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker

Add To Cart

Pub Date: 28 September, 2017
Extent: 176pp
Format: paperback
ISBN: 9781925498608
Rights: UK & Comm, (excl Can): Text Publishing

Translated from the French by Penny Hueston

Born in Germany in 1876, Paula Modersohn-Becker was the first female artist to paint herself not only naked but pregnant. Being Here is a moving account of the life of this ground-breaking Expressionist painter, by the acclaimed French writer Marie Darrieussecq. 

As her art evolves, Paula is torn between Paris and her home in northern Germany. In Paris she can focus on her work, and mix with artists like Rodin and Monet, or her close friend the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. But Germany is home, and that’s where her painter husband Otto lives.

Darrieussecq thrillingly describes Paula’s discovery of her style and choice of subjects—women, babies, domestic life. She tells the story of her fraught marriage, her ambivalence about combining her passion for her career as an artist with motherhood. And she recounts her tragic death at thirty-one, days after giving birth.


‘Marie Darrieussecq reads the testament of Modersohn-Becker—the letters, the diaries, and above all the paintings—with a burning intelligence and a fierce hold on what it meant and means to be a woman and an artist.’ J. M. Coetzee

‘A luminous tale about the courage of the lone female artist.’ Joan London

A brief, powerful artistic life that went painfully unrewarded—until after the painter’s death.’ Julian Barnes, Best Summer Holiday Reads, Guardian UK

‘There are few writers who may have changed my perception of the world, but Darrieussecq is one of them.’ The Times

‘The internationally celebrated author who illuminates those parts of life other writers cannot or do not want to reach.’ Independent

‘An allusive short memoir that reads like a novel.’ Australian

‘Translated elegantly by Penny Hueston, the study retains some of the spacious, if not capacious quality of the French language and its ability to articulate the phenomena of presence and absence—the continued aliveness of the paintings and the sad and sudden death of the painter.’ Conversation

‘In Darrieussecq’s hands, Modersohn-Becker’s story is both individual and exemplary: a frightening, energising fable’ Guardian

‘Darrieussecq animates the short life of a passionate German artist with vivid, spare prose…This taut biography, written in the present tense, has the urgency and poignancy of the best novels.’ Suzy Freeman-Greene, Best Books of 2017, Australian Book Review

‘One of those books that catches you by surprise, Being Here is art history that feels like a beautifully crafted novel…It’s effortlessly beautiful, and highlights the ever more important need to tell the stories of women in art.’ AU Review, Top Ten Books of 2017


Q&A with Marie Darrieussecq on the Text Blog
ABC Radio National, Books and Arts
Marie Darrieussecq in conversation with Kate Zambreno in Paris Review



West Australian
Full Stop Reviews 

Saturday Paper 
AU Review 
Sydney Morning Herald