Felstiner, Mary Lowenthal 1941-

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Felstiner, Mary Lowenthal 1941-


Born February 19, 1941, in Pittsburgh, PA; daughter of Alexander and Anne Lowenthal; married John Felstiner, February 19, 1966; children: Sarah Alexandra, Aleksandr. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1963; Columbia University, M.A., 1966; Stanford University, Ph.D., 1971.


Office—History Department, Stanford University, Stanford, CT 94305.


Stanford University, lecturer in history, 1970-71, 1972; Sonoma State College, lecturer, 1971-72; San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, assistant professor, 1973-81, professor, 1981—.


Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies, Coordinating Commission of Women in History Professions.


Foreign Area fellow, 1964-66, Doherty fellow, 1967-68; Prize in Women's History, American Historical Association, 1995.


(Coeditor and contributor) Chanzeaux: A Village in Anjou, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1966.

To Paint Her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994, University of California, 1997.

Out of Joint: A Private & Public Story of Arthritis, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of Inter-American Studies, Feminist Studies Women's Review of Books, and Hispanic American History Review.


Mary Lowenthal Felstiner's book To Paint Her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era is the biography of German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon, who was murdered at Auschwitz during World War II. Before her death at age twenty-six, Salomon drew on her own tragic family history and artistic talents to create a unique work of art. According the Jonathan Kirsch in the Los Angeles Times, Salomon "created more than 700 paintings and hundreds of other drawings, captions, playlets and operettas that amount to an autobiography in word and image." Salomon titled her work Leben oder Theater?, or Life? or Theater? It was published after her death and is acknowledged by many as an artistic masterpiece.

Peter Gay in the New York Times Book Review notes that Felstiner's biography of Salomon includes thorough and detailed interviews with the artist's friends and relatives. This research, according to Gay, "gives her account some independent value and will spread the word about a talented and tragic hostage to her family and her times." A Kirkus Reviews critic remarked that Felstiner "moves fluidly between biography, history (with a feminist angle), and art criticism as she fleshes out the brief life of Charlotte Salomon." Donna Seaman in Booklist wrote that the author "sheds light on little-known aspects of the Jewish massacre, particularly the treatment of women." Kirsch in the Los Angeles Times stated that "‘To Paint Her Life’ is something truly remarkable, a work of art in its own right and a masterpiece in the field of Holocaust studies."

About the biography's examination of the sociopolitical climate of Salomon's time, Gay in the New York Times Book Review further observed: "Felstiner tells this harrowing tale clearly and emotionally. Indeed, this in an angry book. Not content with recovering the life of this accomplished, attractive and driven victim, she devotes a great deal of space to the crimes of the Nazi regime and to the men responsible for Charlotte Salomon's death." Joan Weimer in Belles Lettres stated: "Even as she unearths and relates such horrifying events, she writes a beautiful book, as artful, lyrical, ironic, penetrating, and dramatic as its subject's own work."



Belles Lettres, spring, 1995, Joan Weimer, review of To Paint Her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era, pp. 98-99.

Booklist, July, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of To Paint Her Life, p. 1912.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1994, review of To Paint Her Life, p. 681.

Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1994, Jonathan Kirsch, review of To Paint Her Life, p. 4E.

New York Times Book Review, August 14, 1994, Peter Gay, review of To Paint Her Life, pp. 11-12.

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