Galka Scheyer: Homage to a strong woman

Christina/ May 20, 2024/ Culture

This Sunday I leave the Braunschweig Municipal Museum deeply impressed. What happened? I visited the finissage of the exhibition “Galka Scheyer and The Blue Four”. At the end of today, guided tours were also offered. I was already expecting it to be packed on International Museum Day with free entry. But when the heavy rain started outside 30 minutes before the start of the second tour, that may have been an additional incentive for some people. In any case, I have never experienced the Museum am Löwenwall so full. But back to Galka Scheyer: I was very impressed by the homage to a strong and self-determined woman. At the same time, Scheyer’s life story once again raised the question: Are men afraid of strong women?

Every beginning is difficult
Ten minutes before 2 p.m. my friend calls me: “Do you care about driving to the museum in the rain?” Oh, it’s raining. A look out the window confirms this fear. So the three of us drive to the gallery. It’s pouring rain outside now. The lobby of the Municipal Museum is already very full. Because of the wet clothes, the air is humid. At first it’s not clear to us why things aren’t going any further. A service staff explains to us: All lockers are occupied and the bags you bring with you must not be larger than DIN A4. So we’re stuck in a traffic jam for now. At the moment we are no longer sure whether we will take the lead. Finally the supervision lets us through. We hand over our bags and almost missed the beginning. As expected, the crowds are big. But I catch a glimpse and then listen, spellbound, to Dr. Axman.

The CV of Emilie Esther Scheyer, born in Braunschweig in 1889, is already exciting. At the time, it was anything but common for women to lead independent lives without a husband. The art supporter was lucky in that, on the one hand, she came from a wealthy family and, on the other hand, she had a father who supported her talent and lifestyle both intellectually and financially. Scheyer first went to Brussels, later to St. Prex and finally to the USA. At times she painted herself, but later she worked as an art teacher, art dealer and art collector. Her relationship with Alexej Jawlensky, whose work “Woman with a Hunchback” made such a lasting impression that von Jawlensky (1864-1941) became her most important painter friend, remains unclear. He lived in a difficult relationship with Marianne von Werefkin and a lover. It is said that Jawlensky also gave her the pet name “Galka” (Russian “Jackdaw”). She also had this name entered on her American passport along with a postdated date of birth (1899). A sign of affection?

Strong women – weak men?
While Ms. Axmann says nothing about a liaison between the two, I hear later during the curator’s tour that the two were suspected of having a relationship. However, there is also the interview with Lette Valeska, her friend. Valeska talks about how she and Galka met Jawlensky in Ancona. When it became clear that the Russian artist was interested in Lette and not Galka, Scheyer wanted to leave again, according to her friend. In the end they stay for a few more days, but Galka keeps urging them to leave.

On the one hand, Scheyer has the talent to establish herself as an art dealer. After all, she is the one who brings the Blue Four into being, designs the logo with the four blue stripes and takes care of the marketing. Even without any commercial training, she concludes good sales contracts with the represented artists and introduces the creatives to Hollywood greats such as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. But despite her many contacts and her fame, Galka remained alone. There is no known marriage, nor a long-term love affair. The piece “Galka Scheyer, all alone” refers to the loneliness, especially before her death in 1945. Is it again the fate of the admired and perhaps feared woman that no man can live up to? Maybe this theory isn’t all that new. Even before Galka Scheyer, similar examples of women can be found in antiquity: e.g. in the pharaoh Hatshepsut. So is it an inevitable fate or do the strong men still exist?

Sunshine comes after rain
With these thoughts I leave the museum. In the meantime it has stopped raining and the sun is back. So we let our thoughts wander and walk along the banks of the Oker. What a wonderful day. Rember: sunshine always comes after the rain.

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