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Who Was Hannelore Baron?

December 15, 2008

I have no idea why I woke up the other morning with the name Hannelore Baron running through my mind; other than the fact that it does have a mellifluous quality to it. I couldn’t even picture her work, so obscure was she to me, but felt I had to look her up and find her place in “recent” art history.

She was born Hannelore Alexander in Dilligen, Germany in 1926, to Jewish parents who were the owners of a small textile shop. On Kristallnacht she saw the shop destroyed, her home ransacked and her father beaten with a hammer. A short while later the family was arrested by Nazis. When Baron later returned to the house (escorted by an S.S. officer), she found the furniture destroyed and her father’s bloody handprints on the wall. It was, she recalled later, a more traumatic experience than the actual events.

From Manny Silverman Gallery:

UNTITLED. 1965, Collage. 8 1/16″ x 8 1/2″

The family managed to get out of Europe alive and settled in the Bronx in 1941. Baron attended the Straubenmuller Textile High School in Manhattan, where she studied costume design. Soon after graduating, she began to experience symptoms of claustrophobia, anxiety and depression, from which she would suffer periodically for the rest of her life. She had the first of three nervous breakdowns not long after her 20th birthday. Stanford Report, July 10, 2002

From Artnet site:  Leslie Feely Fine Art:

UNTITLED. 1969,  Mixed Media.  h: 7.8″ x w: 8.9″ 

Hannelore Baron, Untitled

After Kristallnacht, in 1938, her family fled, made their way out of Europe and settled in the United States in 1941. As a result of the Holocaust, she was claustrophobic. She hated nationalism, hated war and identified with war’s victims. During the Abstract Expressionist years, she painted in tempera. In 1958, she began making collages in which scraps of history, lined and stained with ink and covered with smears, were pasted and sewn together. From the 1989 New York Times Art section By MICHAEL BRENSON.

From Artnet. Manny Silverman Gallery:

UNTITLED. 1978, Mixed Media. h: 10.8″ x w: 8.5″ 

Hannelore Baron, Untitled (C78 170)

Baron needed to be inspired, and her inspiration usually came from materials she found in flea markets and junk yards. Her fabrics suggest untouched, raw or burned skin; some are striped like pillow ticking and the uniforms of prisoners. Her ability to suggest both the condition of entrapment and the possibility of release is remarkable. In an assemblage from 1985, the four upright pieces of wood that seem imprisoned in a box resemble sticks of dynamite. In a collage from 1978, we could be looking at a woman popping out of a corset, or a carelessly stitched wound.

It is her work’s fragility, both physical and spiritual-the sense of quiet, private anguish expressed through forlorn materials and cryptic, edgy scrawls-that has often been cited as the defining characteristic of Baron’s art.
– Michael Kimmelman, exhibition review, The New York Times, October 1, 1993

From Manny Silverman Gallery:

UNTITLED. 1980, Mixed Media Box Construction. 2 ¼” x 6 ⅛” x 6″

Hannelore Baron - Untitled

Baron’s style has been favorably compared with several other Modern masters. In her review for ARTnews of an exhibition of Baron’s work at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1989, critic Barbara A. MacAdam wrote, Klee’s earth tones and signs, Matisse’s blue, the intimate collaging of Kurt Schwitters, and Joseph Cornell’s boxes are all acknowledged, then personalized. Throughout there is a sense of unity-of opposites, of the living and the manmade, of the natural and the designed. absolutearts.com  

From Artnet: Leslie Feely Fine Art:  

UNTITLED. 1981, Mixed Media. h: 8″ x w: 6″ 

Hannelore Baron, Untitled

Baron has become known for the highly personal, intimately sized abstract collages and box constructions that she began exhibiting in the late 1960s. Her works from this time through 1987 (the year of her death) garnered her a reputation as a master of the collage medium. During her life, the ideas expressed in her work grew more complex, introspective and personal; while at the same time they communicated a universal message about nationalism, war, and cruelty. absolutearts.com

From Artnet: Leslie Feely Fine Art:

UNTITLED. 1981, Mixed Media.  Wood, metal, paper, gesso, ink and string. 

h: 8″ x w: 7″ x d: 2.5″ 

Hannelore Baron, Untitled

From Pavel Zoubok Gallery:

UNTITLED. 1983, Collage of etching fragments on paper with ink.

25.72″ x 33.02″ 

“Everything I’ve done is a statement on the, as they say, human condition

The way other people march to Washington, or set themselves on fire, or write protest letters, or go to assassinate someone. Well, I’ve had all the same feelings that these people had about various things, and my way out, because of my inability to do anything else for various reasons, has been to make the protest through my artwork…”
– Hannelore Baron

 From Manny Silverman Gallery:

 UNTITLED. 1985, Mixed Media Collage. 8 5/8″ x 8 3/4″ 

Hannelore Baron - Untitled (C85 089)

When Ms.Baron died of cancer in 1987, the New York Times  had this obituary: She described herself a pacifist and wanted her quietly intense work to convince others of the need to listen. She used letters as symbols of memory and birds as symbols of vulnerability and the need for song.

She had numerous solo shows in New York and last summer was a participant in ”Jewish Themes – Contemporary Artists II” at the Jewish Museum.

Her work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum of American Art and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y.

She is survived by her husband, Herman; a son, Mark; a daughter, Julie; a brother, Hans, and two grandchildren.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2008 3:24 pm

    Thanks for such a wonderful summary of Hannelore Baron. I was introduced to her a long time ago, but did not know all these details. I love the fact her work is simple yet deep at the same time, something I have tried to achieve with my work. Hers is so wonderfully raw though, in the very best way.
    Great blog btw 🙂

  2. islandlass permalink*
    December 16, 2008 5:15 pm

    Thanks!

    I agree with your “simple yet deep” comment. No doubt the “rawness” is a result of her horrendous past which haunted her for the rest of her life.

  3. July 1, 2010 4:29 am

    I just discovered the work of this amazing woman. I can feel the commitment to her work and the story she is relaying with each line, piece of fabric, mark of color. It’s so real and I get the feeling that she did not think to hard about creating these works and that they sort of created her.

  4. antoni permalink
    July 8, 2010 7:35 pm

    If you have interested to discover another Baron, please, see http://tonibaron2010.blogspot.com/

    with all my admiration to Hannelore Baron

  5. April 5, 2014 11:10 pm

    Finally, a Hannelore Baron website –> http://www.hannelorebaron.net/
    There’s still some corrections & formatting to do, but it’s 95% done.
    Please tell anyone you know who you thing would be interested. Now that I’ve finally made it, I have no idea how to get the word out.
    Thanks,
    Mark Baron (Hannelore’s son)

  6. April 7, 2014 4:32 pm

    Finally, a Hannelore Baron website: http://www.hannelorebaron.net/
    If you know anyone who would like to see it please let them know, thanks.
    Mark (Hannelore’s son)

  7. Jana Tuschman, Menlo Park, Ca. permalink
    April 21, 2014 12:46 am

    I just spent several hours imbibing the new Hannelore Baron website. Since her exhibit at Stanford some years ago, where I was introduced to her work, I have felt a deep connection to Hannelore through her art. I look at it often in the small catalogs I have collected, renewing my inspiration for my own work. I, and many, many others continue to be so moved by Hannelore’s ability to communicate both her personal world and the universal through her art, as well as her ability to persevere, to explore and create while faced with personal anguish and declining health.

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