The art of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, exh. cat., New York, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, (25 April – 15 June 2002), New York, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, 2002→
Gammel Irene, Baroness Elsa : gender, dada, and everyday modernity : a cultural biography, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2002.→
von Freytag-Loringhoven Elsa, Body sweats : the uncensored writings of Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2016
The art of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, New York, Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, 25 April – 15 June 2002
American sculptress and poet.
Elsa Hildegard Plötz left her family and moved to Berlin at the age of 18. After two failed marriages, one with the architect August Endell in 1901 and the other with the writer Felix Paul Greve in 1907, she settled in New York, where she met Baron Leopold von Freytag-Loringhoven, whom she married in 1913. She became famous in Greenwich Village in the 1920s for her eccentric behaviour and extravagant outfits made up of bizarre artistic garments (for instance using a wastepaper basket or coal bucket as hats). She supported herself by posing for artists such as Theresa Bernstein and George Biddle. She then began making her first collages and assemblages, most often using found objects (like her portrait of Marcel Duchamp, photographed by Charles Sheeler). Elsa enjoyed attending salons with her head shaved, especially the Arensberg’s, a hub of the American artistic and intellectual avant-garde. She became the new muse of the Dada movement in New York and was nicknamed Dada Baroness. She acted in a film codirected by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray entitled La Baronne rase ses poils pubiens [The Baroness shaving her pubic hair]. In 1915, she created the sculpture God with Morton Schamberg. The piece, which consists in a lead pipe mounted on a block of wood, is considered by many as the perfect expression of New York Dada. As from 1917, she published many poems in the avant-garde literary reviews Broom, The Liberator, and The Little Review, which crowned her “first American Dada”. Incapable of surviving in New York with no regular income, she moved back to Germany in 1923, where her suicidal urges led her to spend time in psychiatric hospitals. She died of gas suffocation in her apartment in Paris. Her autobiography, Baroness Elsa, a combination of her autobiographical manuscript and letter excerpts, was published in 1992.
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Limbswish, ca. 1917-1918, metal spring, curtain tassel, and wire mounted on wood block, 35.6 x 19.1 cm, © Mark Kelman, New York
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Mot aimez cette Parapluice suis-je par vous – Faithless Bernice, 1923-24, gouache on paper, 13 x 12 cm, 5 1/8 x 4 3/4 in., © Collection particulière
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Dada Portrait of Berenice Abbott, c. 1922-26, gouache, metallic paint, and tinted lacquer with varnish, metal foil, celluloid, fiberglass, glass beads, metal objects, cut-and-pasted painted paper, gesso, and cloth on paperboard, 21.9 x 23.5 cm, © MOMA
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Claude McRay [sic] and Baroness Von Freytag-Loringhoven, before 1928, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, no date recorded on caption card, © Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington