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Samoans (Samoanerinnen)

Erich Heckel

European Art

In 1910 the paramount chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi and a handpicked entourage of singers and dancers traveled to Germany from Samoa—then a German colony—for what colonial officials had framed as a diplomatic mission. Although Tamasese did secure meetings with many German dignitaries, he was dismayed to discover the true purpose of the visit: to have his troupe stage cultural shows for European audiences in zoos.

In this depiction of a performance, Erich Heckel’s abstracted style likely takes inspiration from art of the Pacific Islands, a place German artists idealized as untouched by modern forces. Yet his primitivized portrayal of the dancers—which distorts both their bodies and the costuming recorded in photographs—reflects the modern dynamic of colonial exploitation that shaped this encounter.
MEDIUM Woodcut on laid paper
  • Place Made: Germany
  • DATES 1911
    DIMENSIONS Image: 8 1/16 x 13 1/4 in. (20.5 x 33.7 cm) Sheet: 10 x 18 1/4 in. (25.4 x 46.4 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS Verso lower center: "BROOKLYN MUSEUM/BROOKLYN, N.Y." in rectangle (Lugt 307b)
    SIGNATURE Signed, "Erich Heckel '11" lower right margin, in pencil
    INSCRIPTIONS Lower left: illegible; lower right in graphite: "Erich Heckel 11" Verso lower center in graphite: "38.796."
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE By exchange
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Erich Heckel (German, 1883–1970). Samoans (Samoanerinnen), 1911. Woodcut on laid paper, Image: 8 1/16 x 13 1/4 in. (20.5 x 33.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 38.796. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 38.796_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 38.796_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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