1903 - 2000
Gertrud Arndt trained as a weaver at the Bauhaus, first in Weimar, then in Dessau. But after receiving her journeyman’s certificate, she never worked with weaving again – she never liked “all those threads”, as she once admitted later. She was, however, successful at it and made a name for herself with a blue and yellow checkered wool rug, her often-displayed “Teppich 2” which decorated the office of Bauhaus director Walter Gropius. Her interest was centered on photography, which she continued to teach herself throughout the course of her studies.
She married the architect and Bauhaus master Alfred Arndt, moved with him to one of the Master’s Houses in Dessau – and got bored. To “kill time”, as she put it later, she started to produce a series of “mask portraits” of herself. Her old camera, which she still had from her apprenticeship years, did not have a self-timer, so she put together an apparatus using a broomstick and a few centimeters of twine.
„Was ist man? Vielleicht hat man immer eine Maske. Irgendwo hat man immer einen Ausdruck, den man haben will. Das könnte man doch Maske nennen, oder?“,
…was Gertrude Arndt’s response to the question of whether she was trying to stage herself in the photos or make use of clichés.
In the 1980s, Gertrud Arndt was rediscovered as a photographer and compared with contemporaries such as Marta Astfalck-Vietz and Claude Cahun. Today her “mask portraits” are included in nearly every volume about photography during the Weimar Republic. She is considered the predecessor of the great costume artists Cindy Sherman and Sophie Calle, who also photograph themselves, and she is known as a specialist in photographic self-portraits, now known as selfies.