Marie Lannoo, Whatever Happened to the Goebbels’ Family?, 1994, acrylic on canvas. Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, gift of the artist.

About the Artwork

Prior to painting Whatever Happened to the Goebbels’ Family?, Lannoo had been exploring her own personal history in a series of figurative paintings called The Academy. In the painting Whatever Happened to the Goebbel’s FamilyLannoo was inspired by her reading and research to paint about a World War II historical event. Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi soldier and the Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment for Hitler in 1933-45 Germany. Through the combination of his ambition and his expert oratory skills he was responsible for influencing the German population’s thinking towards Nazism and specifically the extermination of the Jewish population. After Hitler was defeated and committed suicide, Goebbels and his wife took their own lives as well as the lives of their six children. 

Lannoo, being a mother herself, was appalled to discover that the Goebbels’ made an ideological choice for the lives of their children and she wanted to use their story in her work. The image depicted reflects a transitional period between exploring figurative imagery and returning to her abstract painting roots. 

About the Artist

Marie Lannoo was born in Delhi, Ontario and now lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She has developed a reputation as an outstanding abstract painter whose work explores ideas of surface, reflection, depth, and colour.  Her painting Whatever Happened to the Goebbels’ Family? was one of her last works in a series in which she explored figurative imagery and narrative. She is a prolific artist who exhibits locally, nationally, and internationally and her paintings are represented in many collections. 

Lannoo’s interest in investigating abstract art practices and exploring colour began in 1984, when she established her full-time career as an artist. Since that time, she has examined a variety of themes and processes. Her abstract work explores the magical effect of layering colour to produce a variety of colours and create the illusion of depth. As the viewer interacts with the surface of the painting and is reflected in it, the surfaces change and provide totally new or unexpected reflections of colour. What appears simple on the surface becomes more complex as you spend time experiencing her work. 

Lannoo is always open to her environment and finds inspiration in everything she sees and experiences. She is captivated by a variety of stimuli such as magazine articles, books on string theory, the Aurora Borealis and popular television programs. The vast open spaces of the prairie landscape and the clarity of light also have influenced Lannoo and her work. Some of her greatest artistic influences are Otto RogersEli BornsteinMark Rothko and Zaha Hadid, as well as the artists of the “Regina FiveArthur MacKayKenneth LochheadTed Godwin, Ronald Bloore and Douglas Morton.

Things to Think About

  • How could this work be considered both a figurative painting and abstraction? 
  • Is art more about the actual image you are seeing or the meaning and story behind it? 
  • After reading about this artwork and learning the history behind it, do you think it is important for viewers to research art before or after viewing? If you learned the history after viewing would you have the same understanding of the artwork as you do now?  

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Studio Activity


Think about a story (real or fictional) where the characters or heroes involved stood up for their beliefs or were destroyed by their beliefs. Create an artwork to illustrate the story.  

What you Need:

  • storybook (optional) 
  • Paint/paintbrushes 
  • Paper 
  • Drawing materials 

What you Do:

  •  Choose a real-life story or historical figure, or find a storybook that aligns with the theme of standing up for beliefs. Some examples include:
    • The Paperbag Princess
    • Pete the Cat Series
    • Berenstain Bears
    • The Lorax
    • Horton Hears a Who 
  • Design an illustration inspired by your chosen figure or character that represents their struggle or success.