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About, Part 3: The 1930s – First Exile in France

Publicity for fashion and perfume label Maggy Rouff, Paris

Publicity for fashion and perfume label Maggy Rouff, Paris, approx. 1935-38

The economic and political turmoil in Germany in the 1930s prompted Mandello to uproot herself and begin a new life and career in Paris. Johanna was 26 years old in 1933 when the National Socialists seized power in Germany. Life quickly became unbearable for the Jewish citizens. She and her husband Arno Grünebaum left Germany for France in early 1934, in time to escape the brutal persecution of the Jewish population.

“It became clear that Hitler became stronger and stronger. – It was a horrible time […] and so we started to think that we did not want to stay any longer. I had already done some fashion shoots and so my uncle […] Richard said, that he thought we should go to Paris and try to specialize there in fashion photography. But first we had to get married. […] This was just before Christmas of 1933. […] It was absolutely clear that we could be in serious danger. […]”

She was not only a woman of great foresight but also of enormous personal strength with many resources: in Paris, she and Arno (to whom she taught photography) started over again and managed to become successful photographers. They worked in fashion and in publicity, continually exploring new techniques and experimenting with luminosity, low-angle shots, unusual framings, close-ups and photomontages. Their work reflected the experimental and avant-garde photographic movements of the time in Paris, developed by photographers such as Man Ray, Brassaï, Lartigue and Doisneau. The couple also worked with ground-breaking fashion photographer Herman Landshoff and their work was contemporary to that of Erwin Blumenfeld. Arno, who had not had formal photography training, enrolled at the Société française de photographie.

Paris 1934 #2

Paris, Notre Dame, 1934

The couple opened a photography studio at rue Chardin and specialized in fashion photography, working among others for the magazine Jeu d’Aiguille and for fashion designers Chanel (where Jeanne met Coco Chanel), Creed, Maggy Rouff, Jacques Heim and Balenciaga. Their photos were published in Marie Claire, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

“Johanna”, seeking to distance herself from Germany, changed her name to the French “Jeanne”. In 1940, she was officially deprived of her German nationality.[1] Her husband, Arno, adopted Mandello as his last name, dropping the German-sounding Grünebaum.

[1] Muriel de Bastier, “Jeanne Mandello de Bauer, ou la mémoire disparue d’une photographe”, in: Anne Grynberg/Johanna Linsler: Irreparabel. Lebenswege jüdischer Künstlerinnen, Künstler und Kunstkenner auf der Flucht aus dem ‘Dritten Reich’ in Frankreich (Publications of the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg, 9, under the direction of Andrea Baresel-Brand), Magdeburg, 2013.