Kettelhake Silke, Renée Sintenis : Berlin, Boheme und Ringelnatz, Osburg, Berlin, 2010
Renée Sintenis : das plastische Werk, Georg-Kolbe-Museum, Berlin, 24 November 2013 – 30 March 2014 ; Museum Kulturspeicher, Würzburg, 12 April – 22 June 2014
German sculptor and draughtswoman.
In her day, art critics – predominantly male – were persuaded that a female sculptor must excel at miniature subjects, akin to knick-knacks, and treat relatively light and so-called “feminine” themes, while direct carving and monumental works belonged to the male camp. In partial conformity with these rules of the game, and owing to her choice of animals as sculptural subject – a “respectable” genre – Renée Sintenisva thus earned an official place in the art of her time. From a family of French Huguenots who sought refuge in Germany, she grew up in a wealthy milieu. She learned sculpture from Wilhelm Haverkamp, at the Academy of the Royal Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin, but her father, a jurist, forbade her from embarking on an artistic career, so she left the family home. After moving in with a friend, she produced her first small animal bronzes; she regularly visited the zoo in Berlin to study the animals. In 1915, the presentation of her works at the Berlin Secession earned her her first taste of fame. Thanks to her friend, the photographer Frieda Riess (1890-1955), she became a part of the artistic and intellectual milieu of the city. In 1917, she married Emil Rudolf Weiss, typography professor at the Fine Arts Academy and a poet and writer. Spotted by the influential modernist gallerist Alfred Fleichtheim, her work was displayed each year in his gallery, but also in France, New York, and The Hague. In 1921, she illustrated the translation of Sappho by Hans Rupé: her drawing with stylised lines depicted partly undressed or swathed women, barely outlined in an ethereal world. In 1925, A. Fleichtheim exhibited her works alongside painter Marie Laurencin.
The sculptor broached the male body through sportsmen, models for the study of muscle tone: the rapid movements of the boxer, runner, or polo player are shown with the same intensity as the slow movement of the horse as it lays down. Her success culminated in 1926 with Der Läufervon Nurmi [The Nurmi Runner, 1926], for which she received the Olympia Prize in 1932. In 1931, she was the first female member of the Berlin Academy, where she taught until she was forced to leave by the Nazis in 1934. During the war, bombing destroyed her studio. In June 1945, the artist exhibited in one of the first contemporary art exhibitions in Berlin and recovered her teaching position in 1947. The following year, she received the city’s First Prize for art.
Renée Sintenis, Chariot Racing, drypoint printed in black ink on laid paper, 12.1 x 14.6 cm, © Detroit Instituts of Arts, © ADAGP, Paris