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Gertrud Arndt (née Hantschk; 20 Sep. 1903-10 July 2000) was a photographer associated with the Bauhaus movement. She is remembered for her pioneering series of self-portraits from around 1930. (Wikipedia)
“I’ll never finish taking off all these masks,” wrote Claude Cahun in 1930. The performative self-portrait, and the filmic and photographic investigation into the “masquerade of femininity” which often accompanies it, is a theme that runs through artists’ oeuvres from that of Cahun and Maya Deren to Cindy Sherman. Indeed, while Cahun was writing poems and photographing herself wearing masks in Paris, former Bauhaus student Gertrud Arndt was also addressing the façade of femininity in Weimar Germany, where she staged portraits of herself under the series title Maskenselbstporträts – a term which translates to “masked-self-portraits”. Dressing in lace, veils, scarves and flowers – the lexicon of fetish – Arndt’s self-representations unmistakably invoked an excess of gendered identities, a series of disguises: the femme fatale, the good girl, the fun-loving flapper, the respectable lady, the serious and stoical widow, the new woman.
....Arndt mimics, mimes, performs and parodies the signs representing 'woman': like her contemporaries Cahun and Marta Astfalck-Vietz, these pictures articulate the early conceptualisation of the argument that there is no such thing as the woman, only her representations... By deftly collecting the signifiers of femininity and erotic allure, these ‘masks’ make explicit reference to the myths of the new woman, and reference the ensuing entrapment or control of women.
It was in 1933 that Arndt took all 43 of her ‘mask’ self-portraits. While in some she plays with feminine archetypes of history and in the history of art (in one particular ...