biography

gallery

object

oct. 13: meret oppenheim book covers - smartphone page

leonora carrington
frida kahlo
leonor fini
lee miller
remedios varo

frank auerbach
francis bacon
baselitz
joseph beuys
christo
jean cocteau
salvador dali
hundertwasser
jasper johns
anselm kiefer
jean marais
lichtenstein
mcbean
picasso
egon schiele
andy warhol



Meret Oppenheim
1913-1985
Swiss Surrealist

Biography:

Swiss painter and sculptor.
Born 1913 in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Died 1985 in Berne.

meret oppenheim

Born in Berlin in 1913, Oppenheim passed her childhood in Switzerland and southern Germany where her father, a doctor long interested in Jung's ideas, had a country medical practice.

Her aunt had at one time been married to Herman Hesse; her grandmother had studied painting in Dusseldorf in the 1880s and later became well known as a writer of novels and children's stories and as an activist in the Swiss League for Women's Rights.

Oppenheim took the latter's example to heart, decided at an early age not to marry at all or at least not until later in life, and began hiding a sketchbook inside her hymnal during long and tedious church services.

At sixteen, stimulated by an exhibition of Bauhaus work at the Basel Kunsthalle that included the number paintings of Paul Klee, she produced her first "surrealist" work, an equation between X and a drawing of a rabbit in a school notebook. She wouki later present this first Cahier d'une Ecoliere to the Surrealist leader, Andre Breton.

Leaving school the following year, Oppenheim met some of the artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit and began making pen and ink watercolors, many of which have an air of expressive caricature not unlike that of Klee's early etchings.

She arrived in Paris in May 1932, rented a room at the Hotel Odessa in Montparnasse, and enrolled briefly at the Academic de la Grande Chaumiere.

Soon bored by the academic routine at the academy, she began to spend her days in galleries and cafes, writing her first poems in the Cafe du Dome where she met Giacometti in 1933. Through him she met Sophie Taeuber and Hans Arp, Kurt Seligmann and Max Ernst. Giacometti and Arp became her first artistic mentors; Ernst and Man Ray her intimate companions.

Giacometti, who was earning a living making furniture and objects, encouraged her to make her first Surrealist object, a small piece titled Giacometti's Ear (1933). He and Arp invited her to exhibit with them at the Salon des Surindependents in 1933; after that she frequented Surrealist meetings and gatherings, increasingly identifying her life and her art with the movement.

Her youth and beauty, her free spirit and uninhibited behavior, her precarious walks on the ledges of high buildings, and the "surrealist" food she concocted from marzipan in her studio, all contributed to the creation of an image of the Surrealist woman as beautiful, independent, and creative.

But this public persona was of little help, in fact was almost certainly a hindrance, in her search for artistic maturity. The objects that insured her place in subsequent histories of the movement offer flashes of brilliance rather than evidence of sustained artistic growth, and she was, even at that time, conflicted and uncertain about her life as an artist.

She had been named after the Meretlein or "Little Meret" of Gottfried Keller's story Green Henry.

Participated in Surrealist meetings and exhibitions until 1937 and again, more sporadically, after the war until shortly before Breton's death in 1966.

First one-woman exhibition at the Galerie Schulthess, Basel, in 1933.

meret oppenheim

Her fur-lined teacup, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1937, was chosen by visitors to the exhibition as the quintessential Surrealist symbol.

Oppenheim's return to Basel in 1937 marked the beginning of an eighteen-year period of artistic crisis and redirection.

In 1939 she took part in an exhibition of fantastic furniture with Leonor Fini, Max Ernst, and others at the Galerie Rene Druin and Leo Castelli in Paris.

A major retrospective of her work was organized by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1967.

For the latter part of her life, lived and worked in Berne and Paris.


Exhibition: Tenerife (1935), Copenhagen (1935), London (1936), New York (1937), Paris (1938), Mexico City (1940), New York (1942).


Max Ernst on Meret Oppenheim:

Preface for her first one-woman exhibition in Basel, 1936:

'At the age of fifteen, she left father and mother to seek after half-grown railways... At twenty she decently enclosed herself in a crack of air and swallowed the key. After forty days of fasting, she suddenly burst out of her own confinement and since that time loves to play... She is a living example of the ancient theorem The Woman is a Sandwich Covered With White Marble'.

Source: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement


Object:

Ever since the 1937 New York exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, one object above all others has dominated the Surrealist imagination. Meret Oppenheim's Object of 1936 originated in a chance remark in a cafe where Oppenheim, Dora Maar, and Picasso had met.

Picasso and Maar admired a bracelet Oppenheim had made from a piece of brass covered with fur, and Picasso commented that anything might be covered with fur. In some accounts he is reported to have mentioned a teacup specifically. Oppenheim recalled only that when her tea grew cold she requested un peu plus de fourrure ("a little more fur"), and an idea was born. Leaving the Cafe Flore, she went directly to a nearby Uniprix department store and purchased a demitasse cup and spoon. The finished object was presented to Andre Breton for his exhibition at the Charles Ratton Gallery.

Source: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement

biography | gallery

top of page

wares:








art store



link



2014 by the appropriate owners of the included material

Meret Oppenheim Archives. ihuppert5@aol.com.