Solo Exhibition


In cooperation with the Wiener Holocaust Library, the Liebermann Villa on Lake Wannsee is dedicating its coming summer exhibition to the German-Jewish photographer Gerty Simon (1887–1970). The show presents a selection of her impressive portraits from the 1920s and 1930s. The starting point of the exhibition is her 1929 portrait of Max Liebermann. Original photographs, historical press reviews and personal archive material trace Simon’s path from the beginning of her career in the Weimar Republic, her flight into exile, the strategically prepared new beginning in Britain through to the preservation of her estate in London.


Thanks to our cooperation with the Wiener Holocaust Library, Simon’s brilliant photographs can now be shown in Berlin for the first time since her flight from Germany in 1933. The photo and archive material preserved in London is extremely valuable. Based on these documents, Simon’s career as a German-Jewish photographer between the Weimar Republic, National Socialism and exile can be reconstructed. Her life story highlights the grave effects of National Socialism on European cultural history and how such a successful artist could be forgotten.“


Gerty Simon, born Gertrud Cohn to a Jewish family in Bremen, started her career in Berlin, opening her first “photographic studio” in Charlottenburg in the early 1920s. Although Simon did not complete a classical training as a photographer, she quickly built up her network in the vicinity of numerous other female photographers. She was able to cultivate contacts with politicians, scientists and the art scene and began to photograph important personalities of the Weimar republic in the years around 1925. Among those portrayed are Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Renée Sintenis, Max Slevogt, Käthe Kollwitz, Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya and Max Liebermann. Her black and white photos were very well received in the daily press and were followed by numerous photo assignments for the most important illustrated magazines of the time. She was also included in numerous photography exhibitions, including Geistiges Berlin, Geistiges Paris, held at the art salon Marta Görtels in 1929, or Fotografie der Gegenwart initiated by the Museum Folkwang in the same year.


In addition to Simon’s successes in the 1920s, the exhibition also examines her British exile. Simon quickly recognised the threat National Socialism represented for her family in Berlin. In late 1933, she was able to escape with her son to Great Britain; her husband followed in 1938. The archive materials exhibited at the Liebermann Villa illustrate how precisely Simon prepared her new start. She collected press articles for example that highlighted her success – mounting them on cardboard with titles and dates, and preparing English translations. She also sought out recommendations from well-known photographers in London. Gerty Simon reopened a photo studio on Church Street, Chelsea in 1933. In the course of the 1930s she met several Berlin friends in exile in London, including Lotte Lenya and Alfred Flechtheim. Simon was also able to build up a broad network in London and her studio became a meeting point for the art scene.


The exhibition also sheds light on the post-war life of the Simon family using further items from the artist’s estate. It is not known whether Gerty Simon continued to work as a photographer after 1936. In 1940, both her husband and son – like almost all German emigrants in Great Britain – were imprisoned as “enemy aliens”. The family survived the war years however and received British citizenship in 1947. Gerty Simon stayed in Great Britain with her family until she died in 1970. After the death of their son in 2015, the family estate was transferred to the Wiener Holocaust Library. Founded in 1933, the library is now the world’s oldest institution for documenting Nazi rule and its crimes. Their collection consists of over a million documents – newspaper clippings, books, photographs and eyewitness reports – from countless contemporary witnesses. In 2019 the institution presented Gerty Simons’ photographs with the exhibition Berlin / London. The Lost Photographs of Gerty Simon for the first time.


Three TERRACE TALKS on the subjects of “Female photographers in Berlin in the 1920s“ (July 12th), “Female Photographers in Exile“ (August 2nd) and “Forgotten Female Artists“ (August 30th) will deepen the central issues of the exhibition. For each of the talks, two experts will give a short presentation with a specific thematic impulse, followed by a discussion which will be moderated by the director Dr. Lucy Wasensteiner.

Three PHOTO WORKSHOPS for children and teenagers accompany the exhibition in cooperation with the photographer and art educator Hanna Mattes. The two-hour workshops pick up on Gerty Simon’s portraits and let the participants create their own pictures apart from the typical selfie in order to encourage them to ask self exploring questions like “Who am I?“ and “How can I convey my character to the outside world?“.

From July 2021, on the newly relaunched Liebermann-Villa website, the exhibition will be accompanied by a DIGITAL PROGRAM including an online presentation of the life and work of Gerty Simon, an audio guide and an international blog series on women artists in exile. Visitors are also invited to visit the Wiener Library’s “Finding Gerty” Flickr page, to help identify the many unknown sitters captured in Gerty Simon’s photographs (#FindingGerty).

Thursday, Sep 9, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30 pm
Zoom-Talk (held in English) in collaboration with the Wiener Holocaust Library. Please register here.

The exhibition is supported by the program for “Contemporary history and remembrance culture“ of the Berlin Senate Administration for Culture and Europe and is part of the festival year “1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany”.
Wiener Holocaust Library Collections | Berliner Senatsverwaltung Für Kultur Und Europa | „1700 Jahre Jüdisches Leben In Deutschland“

July 4 — Oct 4, 2021
+ Framework program: please see above

Colomierstraße 3, 14109 Berlin
[District: Wannsee | Borough: Steglitz-Zehlendorf]

Opening hours: Daily except Tuesdays 10 am – 6 pm

Admission: 10 € / reduced 6 €
Limited tickets on site, please book your time slot ticket online!

+++ Please pay attention to the current Corona regulations of the respective gallery/institution. +++ Bitte beachten Sie die aktuellen Corona-Bestimmungen der jeweiligen Galerie/Institution.

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