Jeanne Mammen was born in Berlin, the daughter of a successful German merchant. She and her family moved to Paris when she was young and she enjoyed a carefree life and experienced a progressive upbringing by her parents. Jeanne studied art at the Académie Julian and the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. In 1916 she and her family fled Paris to avoid internment during World War 1 and Jeanne returned to Berlin. Her family lost everything, so Jeanne was penniless. She provided for herself by designing film posters and selling illustrations to fashion and satirical magazines. By the late 1920s she began to gain recognition for her watercolors, which reflected the cold hedonism of the Weimar Republic. Jeanne would dress in a mannish raincoat and beret to sit anonymously in cafes and sketch. ‘I have always wanted to be just a pair of eyes, walking through the world unseen, able to see others,‘ she once said.
It is important to note, the women in her works were portrayed as strong and active participants in Berlin life. As her work developed she began to address political themes as well as to document everyday life. When Jeanne died in 1976 she was an important artist in Germany, but it was not until 40 years later that she was internationally recognized after being included in an exhibition at Tate Modern, London. She continues to grow in influence and notoriety today.