Sylvia von Harden (March 28, 1894 – June 4, 1963), also called Sylvia von Halle, was a German journalist and poet. During her career as a journalist, she wrote for many newspapers in Germany and England. She is perhaps best known as the subject of a painting by Otto Dix.
Born Sylvia Lehr, von Harden (she chose the name as an aristocratic pseudonym) wrote a literary column for the monthly Das junge Deutschland from 1918 to 1920, and wrote for Die Rote Erde from 1919 to 1923. From 1915 to 1923, she lived with the writer Ferdinand Hartkopf, with whom she had a son. During the 1920s she lived in Berlin, and published two volumes of poetry in 1920 and 1927.
She was famously portrayed in Otto Dix's painting entitled Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden (1926). An ambivalent image of the New Woman, it depicts von Harden with bobbed hair and monocle, seated at a cafe table with a cigarette in her hand and a cocktail in front of her. This painting is recreated in an opening scene of the film Cabaret.
In 1959, von Harden wrote an article, “Erinnerungen an Otto Dix” (“Memories of Otto Dix”), in which she described the genesis of the portrait. Dix had met her on the street, and declared:
'I must paint you! I simply must! … You are representative of an entire epoch!'
'So, you want to paint my lacklustre eyes, my ornate ears, my long nose, my thin lips; you want to paint my long hands, my short legs, my big feet—things which can only scare people off and delight no-one?'
'You have brilliantly characterized yourself, and all that will lead to a portrait representative of an epoch concerned not with the outward beauty of a woman but rather with her psychological condition.'
The painting, an important example of the New Objectivity movement, is now in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.