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Artists Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Photo

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

German-American Sculptor, Photographer, Poet, and Performance Artist

Movements and Styles: Dada, Modern Photography, Performance Art, Readymade, Proto-Feminist Artists

Born: July 12, 1874 - Swinemunde, Germany (now Świnoujście, Poland)

Died: December 14, 1927 - Paris, France

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Timeline

Quotes

"[I had] pushed through to a spiritual sex: art - that nobody protects as readily as a charming love body of flesh. "
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
"We were people of a circle of supposed highcultivated life conduct by intellectual morality - higher than society in its hypocritical meshes. "
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
"Everything emotional in America becomes a mere show and make-believe. Americans are trained to invest money, are said to take even desperate chances on that, yet never do they invest [in] beauty nor take desperate chances on that. With money they try to buy beauty - after it has died - famishing - with grimace. Beauty is ever dead in America."
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
"All who want me would like to eat me up, but I am too expansive and am open to all sides, desire this here and that there."
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

"Every artist is crazy with respect to ordinary life."

Synopsis

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the Baroness as she was known, became a living legend in the bohemian enclave of New York City's Greenwich Village in the years before and after World War I. A provocateur and essential catalyst for New York's burgeoning Dada movement, the Baroness obliterated the boundaries of conventional norms of womanhood and femininity and upended notions of what was considered art.

Along with the infamous French artist Marcel Duchamp, she pioneered the use of the readymade, and she stretched and manipulated the English language to create avant-garde poetry. Her penchant for cross-dressing and incorporating found objects into her wardrobe made going out in public a daily Dada performance. The Baroness was a radical proto-feminist who critiqued patriarchal norms but was largely overshadowed by her male colleagues. Her daringness was largely ascribed to female eccentricity, and she became a footnote in the annals of New York Dada. It has only been recently that her contributions to the avant-garde have been recognized for their innovativeness.

Key Ideas

Steeped in avant-garde principles and strategies, Freytag-Loringhoven's work questions the very nature of what society considers art. The Baroness' use of the "readymade", a found object presented as a work of art, demands that the viewer consider the divide between high and low culture, utilitarian, everyday objects and fine art, and the role of the artist not as original creator but as appropriator. Her readymades and assemblages disrupt standard notions of beauty. Furthermore, the ephemeral nature of so much of the Baroness' work deeply embodies Dada's lacerating critique of the commodification of art objects, perhaps more so than Duchamp's "readymades," which were embraced by the very institutions they meant to undermind.
The Baroness took the idea of the "New Woman," the image of the independent modern woman popularized at the end of the 19th century, to new heights with her rabid insistence on intellectual, artistic, and sexual autonomy. Her eccentric dress and unapologetic use of her body, both as a model and a performance artist, set her apart from her male Dada colleagues.

Biography

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Photo

Childhood

Born Elsa Hildegard Ploetz to a middle-class family in 1874, Elsa was the elder of two siblings. She was not born a "Baroness," as she would later come to be known, but acquired the name von Freytag-Loringhoven when she married. She characterized her younger sister, Charlotte Louise, as the relatively more "sensible" person, unlike her mother Ida-Marie Ploetz, with whom she more readily identified. Freytag-Loringhoven described her mother as having a "sweetness and intensity - passionate temperament - only softer as I - kept subdued - regulated by custom-convention ." Ida-Marie died of uterine cancer in February of 1893, when Freytag-Loringhoven was just nineteen. Ida-Marie had suffered for years with mental illness and had spent two years prior at a sanatorium in Stettin, Germany. Shortly after her mother's death, which Freytag-Loringhoven blamed on her father, Freytag-Loringhoven had a violent encounter with her father, who had a history of abusive treatment of his daughter. "My father... behaved so unspeakably, pitifully ridiculous that I felt an overpowering nausea," Freytag-Loringhoven wrote of the attack. Her father's remarriage three months after her mother's death and his continued ill treatment of her, led Freytag-Loringhoven to run away to Berlin to live with a favored aunt.

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Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Interactive chart with Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Man RayMan Ray
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp

Personal Contacts

Felix Paul Greve
August Endell

Movements

DadaDada

Influences on Artist
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Years Worked: 1892-1927
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp

Personal Contacts

Berenice AbbottBerenice Abbott
Djuna Barnes

Movements

DadaDada
Feminist ArtFeminist Art
HappeningsHappenings

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Content compiled and written by Laura Hillegas

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Laura Hillegas
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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