Mela Muter

Varsòvia 1876 - París 1967

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Mela Muter is pseudonym used by Maria Melania Mutermilch, who was born in 1876, in Warsaw to a wealthy Jewish merchant family. Not only was her family among the social elite of the city, but her father was a supporter of arts and culture, hence why Maria grew up in a cultural and artistic environment. At the age of 23, she married Michal Mutermilch, who was a member in the Polish Socialist Party and enjoyed a career as an art critic and writer. Mela continued her studies at the School of Drawing and Painting for Women and later, when she, her husband and their only son moved to Paris in 1901, she studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Soon, in 1902 she began exhibiting her work at the Paris Salon, as well as the Salon des Indépendants, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon des Femmes Artistes Modernes. Her personality was shaped by broad and direct contacts with members of the Parisian artistic and intellectual elite. Muter took an active part in the artistic life of Paris, but also exhibited her works in Poland. Her friends included Diego Rivera, Romain Rolland and Auguste Perret, and she formed a close friendship with the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in the 1920s. She became a well-known portrait painter in Paris, and was one of the first members of the group of artists at the School of Paris. She became internationally famous for her portraits of her contemporaries from the upper class circle, including plenty of Polish-originating artists and authors. She was also recognized for the depiction of popular scenes which she portrayed with great sensitivity. The highly individualistic style of her paintings can be characterized by a certain tactile materiality, and her studies of Cubism, Cézanne and van Gogh are particularly apparent in her works on paper. Before World War I, she presented her work individually four times: twice in Warsaw, in 1902 and 1907, then in Barcelona in 1911 and further in Gerona in 1914. During her lifetime, Mela Muter exhibited her art at Galerie Thannhauser in Munich, the Salon d'Automne in Paris, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh and the Venice Biennial.