Meret Oppenheim (Man Ray photo)

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 IMAGO Narrative

  Written by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & Anselm Spoerri


Landscape of Childhood

Family & Roots

Difficult Years of Youth

Tarot Prophecy

Paris of the Surrealists

Man Ray's Photographs

Love & Max Ernst

Furlined Teacup

Long Creative Crisis

Dreams & C.G. Jung

Process of Transformation

New Creativity & Playfulness


My Sister

Living Spaces

Paris of the Later Years

Casa Costanza



Words which are important in our lives, carry their meaning within.

Carona became such a cherished word to me.


One feeds on berries

One salutes with the shoe

Quick, quick, the most beautiful vowel empties itself.


Belvedere, the summerhouse behind the church, is my spiritual oasis.

The things that surround me here are close to my heart and inspire me.

Here, I can refresh my mind and collect new strength.

Here, I feel connected to ancient times.


I feel how my eye turns towards the forests and the moon.

I feel my compass pointing towards the nourishing proverbs.

But my beautiful crocodile.

My crocodile out of heart,

Where does your pride go ?

Up there in that garden

There stand my shadows

That cool my back.

Today I want to visit them

Today I want to greet them

And count their noses.


Ever since I was a child, I have spent the summer months in Carona.

Belvedere belonged to my grandmother, who then passed it on to my mother, and she gave it to me.

My grandmother opened my eyes to Nature. She taught me the names of the flora and fauna.

For me, childhood is the fertile ground from which a human being grows. We are all rooted in it.

Landscape of Childhood

I was born in 1913 in Berlin. But my earliest memories are connected to the landscape of the Swiss Jura - the landscape of my childhood.

At the outbreak of the 1st world war, my mother took me back to her parents' house, the villa Solitude, overlooking the town of Delémont.


The earliest images that imprinted themselves upon my mind were: the swing under the oaktree and the dog Wotan's grave underneath a huge stone.


Beautiful moments connect me to my grandfather.

I can still remember the big animals out of papier mâché, which he made with us. And every evening we made drawings together.


In my childhood I soaked everything in, and later I had Nature within me.

It is still vivid in my mind, the edge of the forest above our house, where my sister and I built palaces out of moss. And dead ladybirds were lying around everywhere. So we lined them all up and each of them received a dry blade of grass for a spear. There were the king and queen, below was the army and servants, all ladybirds.


My grandparents acquired several houses in Carona. Besides the summerhouse Belvedere, there was also the Casa Costanza on the piazza.


Hermann Hesse was one of the many visitors and captured the atmosphere of this palazzo :

"A small, brilliant square with two yellow palazzi lay still and dazzling in the enchanted noon: narrow stone balconies, closed shutters, a glorious stage for the first act of an opera.

But the house seemed to lack an entrance, there was only the yellow wall with two balconies, and above them a bit of painting in the stucco of the gable: red and blue flowers and a parrot.

Through rooms with stone floors separated by doorless arches we entered a hall where fantastic baroque plaster figures pranced above the doors and all around ran a dark frieze of dolphins, white horses and pink Cupids floating in a densely populated mythical sea."

Family & Roots

My grandfather Theo Wenger actually wanted to become a bookbinder, but his father was a pastor and forced him to become a pastor as well. Very soon he lost his voice and couldn't preach anymore.

In a roundabout way he became the owner of a knife factory in Delémont.

He was a witty man, and had at times a nasty, even macabre sense of humor. I believe I have his sense of humor.


I am completely convinced that my talent comes from my grandmother Lisa Wenger. She was one of the few women studying painting in the1880's. At forty she started to write. She became a well-known writer and illustrator of children's books; who in Switzerland didn't grow up with "Jumping Jack should go and pick pears"?!

It was my grandmother, who taught me to trust the poetic language of the unconscious.

She always supported me, especially during my difficult adolescence. I feel very connected to her.

She was, of course, actively engaged in the struggle for women's right to vote. My grandmother was a creative woman and receptive to the new and modern.


My grandparents had two daughters: Ruth and Eva.

My mother Eva married Erich Oppenheim. She had wished for three children: a kind child - my brother Burkhard, a beautiful child - myself and an intelligent child - my sister Kristin.

I still remember how my mother Eva would protect the snakes in Carona, and she would say that the snakes couldn't help it that God had given them a deadly venom. My mother loved animals.


My aunt Ruth was married for a short time to Hermann Hesse. She was a painter and dancer.

I admired her for her dedication to the arts and her modern life style.

Ruth was for me another example of the new woman, where the woman is active and thirsty for knowledge.


I already see the same encouragement to women in the story of Adam and Eve. Because it was Eve who was urged by the snake to take the apple from the tree of knowledge. Then Eve was damned and with her the snake. But the snake represents for me Nature as the union of opposites. The snake is a being of positive force and a symbol for the re-evaluation of the feminine.

Difficult Years of Youth

In my youth I experienced for the first time what was expected of a girl.

Even my father, a kind man, was of the opinion: "Never have women accomplished anything." Is one supposed to grow up with this?!


I suffered at school and was often ill.

The drawing "The schoolbook" was my answer to school-mathematics. I felt at home in poetry and I read mainly the romantics.


We lived then in Steinen, a village in the South of Germany, half an hour from Basel.

My father had a doctor's practise there.

He was concerned with the loneliness of the country folk. This lead him to take up communication with Jung, whose theories were discussed at home.


When I was 14, I began to record my significant dreams.

"In a cemetery, an old woman walks slowly up the path. On her shoulders she carries three coffins. In the little chapel she takes her three dead daughters out of the coffins, and she scrapes with her foot on the ground.

Suddenly an oval opening is created. In it lies a snake that winds itself around a rod. The snake transforms itself into a huge wildcat and wants to attack the woman by the throat. The woman gives it a kick. The animal flies against the wall, where behind each dead daughter lies an apple. The wildcat says: Bite into the apple bite into the apple."


When I was 17, I got to know young men. They said things like 'Everything about a woman is a mystery, its solution the child', and they divided women into honorable wives and despicable whores. I immediately thought, count me out! So I painted the "Strangling angel" an ex voto against getting pregnant.

I did not want to be degraded into a child-producing cow.

Tarot Prophecy

Then when I was 18, I felt so depressed that I wanted to commit suicide again.

I went to Basel to see my grandmother, so that she would read the tarot for me. I knew she had a gift for it.

"After times of feeling out of balance, you will become sure in yourself, even very confident.

What you do depends mainly upon you.

Until your artistic success you will find yourself in a struggle with yourself.

The way to that point will be difficult. You will have to go through 'heaven and hell', until, shortly before the breakthrough, you will find something surprising within you, you will have a flash of insight.

Your journey takes you through restlessness and travels. But there will always be something or somebody to guide and support you.

You completely live your 'calling', although you will be loved very much.

You will suffer the greatest pain due to the death of a friend or relative.

A great deal of suffering will come into your family home, but there will also be better times.

You will get to know many men, who will partly love you, but also women will enter into your circle of friends.

If you should ever marry, then it would be to a mature man. In the cards of the house there is a man, who you will love."

What my grandmother foretold, gave me a lot of courage. It was the most important thing for a long time.


From an early age I frequented the artist circles of Basel.

There I met Irène Zurkinden, a painter and passionate dancer. I admired her especially for her vehement passion for life.

I wanted to become an artist as well and not go to school anymore. This alarmed my parents, and they sent me to see Jung. But he reassured them that there was no need to worry.


In 1932 my father suggested that I go to art school in either Paris or Munich.

I wanted my freedom and independence.

I travelled together with Irène Zurkinden, and on the trip we got high spirited on Pernod.

Paris of the Surrealists

We went immediately, without washing our hands, to the Café du Dôme.

There is a photo of us sitting together in the café. There we sat hundreds of times, there one had one's café crème. It was like a honeycomb, we all sat there, us wasps and bees and we were happy. From there everything else continued.


In the Café du Dôme I wrote my first poems.

For you, against you

Throw all the stones behind you

And let the walls loose.

To you, on you

For one hundred singers above you

the hoofs run loose.

I delight in my mushrooms

I am the first guest in the house

And let the walls loose.


In the Café du Dôme I got to know Alberto Giacometti.

Sometimes I visited him in his studio and watched him for hours at work. It was a silent togetherness.


I made a drawing: "The ear of Giacometti".


In the autumn of 1933 I showed my works to Giacometti. Later he came with Hans Arp to see me. Following that I was invited to exhibit with the surrealists.


"One who watches how another dies"


"The end of the world "


When I was introduced to the work of Marcel Duchamp, I didn't understand anything at all. There was such an aura around him which blocked me completely.

But one always forgets how much humor there is with Duchamp: poetry and humor.

I once saw a small picture by him of a little birchforest and in the background there was a red and a white bottle, and below was written: pharmacy. I don't know why, but from then on I began to understand Duchamp.


Also the artists Dora Maar, and Leonor Fini as well as Leonora Carrington joined my circle of friends. For us women, surrealism represented a world, in which we could rebel against the conventions of our upbringing and in which imagination was a key to a more liberated life.

Of course the dominance of men in the surrealist group was the same as everywhere else, but with the difference that they accepted women as artists without prejudice.


In Paris I found confirmation of my attitude to life. I remember fondly this lively, uninhibited time with its games of transformation.

Irène would say that I was a child, which that era had brewed together, not like somebody that had come from Switzerland to Paris, but as if I had been created there!

Yes, I was fascinated and impressed by the success of my appearance, whereas actually I am a very shy person.

Man Ray's Photographs

Through the surrealists I got to know Man Ray.

I enjoyed it especially when he took photos of me in his apartment, where many of his paintings were hanging.

It seemed that then I didn't say a word, because when I met Man Ray again after the war, he said: 'But you can speak now!' I didn't speak a lot then. I felt so unsure of myself.


The dew on the rose

Who touched it before

Before the night ?

She kept her pale flesh

Her wax

Black and white

One sees her again in the clouds

Eating marzipan.


When Man Ray asked me whether he could publish our photos, I gave my consent.

I felt completely indifferent. Naked or not? I was completely free. Only my poor parents.

Love & Max Ernst

One feeds on berries

One salutes with the shoe

Quick, quick, the most beautiful vowel empties itself.


At a studio-party I met Max Ernst. We fell passionately in love.


Then something happened that I could only explain to myself years later.

When we met in a café, I said out of the blue sky of my love for him: 'I don't want to see you anymore.'

Max Ernst was deeply hurt. Although I reassured him that it wasn't because of another man, he didn't believe me. For me it was also like a natural catastrophy. A little later I had the following dream:

"I am lying together with a man in bed and I say to him that I don't love him anymore. He responds: Fetch yourself one of those Greeks! I go to the relief on the wall and pull one of the marble boys by the leg. We go away together. The boy is suddenly my father and he points to a group of trees and says: 'There I met your mother'. I exclaim: 'There is my murderer'.

I go to these trees where an older man is sitting, who threatens me with a knife. I grab it and want to stab him, when my father says: 'One doesn't do that'. I give the man a push. He rolls down the hillside, and looks like a snake that bites its tail."


Many years later I could understand that it was my inner knowledge of an impending danger, that had pulled me away from Max Ernst. Living closely together with Ernst, a fully developed artist, would have been a catastrophy for me. I was only at the beginning of my artistic development.


Personally, I liked the paintings I had made in Paris.

But without judging them. I would never have had the idea to compare them with the paintings by artists that I respected. I sang uninhibited like a bird.

I considered surrealism as something different to what one understands it to be today. The people I admired, Picabia, Duchamp, Miro, Tanguy, Man Ray, Arp ... were all non-figurative artists for whom the idea was the most important thing, not the form.

Later the word surrealism became associated with Dali and all these Post-Dalis and Non-Dalis.

But surrealism is a very specific idea. Surrealism is reality itself.


"People on the street"

Furlined Teacup

In 1936 my family was forced to leave Germany, and couldn't support me anylonger.

I tried to stay above water by designing fantasy-jewellery for the haute couture.

I had an idea for the winter-season, a bracelet out of copper lined with seal skin.

I wore this bracelet one day when I met Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso in the Café de Flore. They admired it and Picasso commented: 'Many things could be covered in fur'. We laughed and pointed at this and that. 'Yes, also this cup and saucer ...' I replied. Later, when my tea was cold, I called the waiter: 'Garçon, un peu plus de fourrure.'


A few days later I met Breton and he asked me to participate in an upcoming exhibition. Immediately the idea of the cup came to my mind.


Imagine drinking thick hot chocolate out of the Fur-cup.


It was immediately acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I had this label now maker of objects, surrealist.

Ah, this eternal Fur-cup. You make an object, which gets placed on an altar, and everybody only speaks of it and nothing else. I don't find it bad, but I have made other equally good objects.

Long Creative Crisis

During my Paris years I experienced recurring depressions, but in 1937 they intensified into a permanent state. It was the end of the world for me.


Forsaken, forgotten

So black on the shore of oats.

I do not want to measure the time,

that invented this pain.


"Then we live on later"


I decided to return to Basel, because it was also difficult for me to make a living in Paris. I lived in a room in the Klingenthal, the house of my grandmother on the banks of the river Rhein. Because our family had great money problems, the rest of the house was rented out.


There I was, 24 years old and I had been singing with the innocence of youth. And then everything fell on my neck. I didn't believe in myself anymore.

The bourgeoisie of Basel never really forgave me for leaving school and taking off for Paris. I had to sing small for a long time.

I questioned everything I had ever made and been.

The success of the fur-cup didn't mean anything to me, but probably because of it, I fell apart and I had to ask myself:

Am I really an artist ?

Or should I work in an office ?

Or should I get married ?

I decided to fill this dead time by going to the art school in Basel.

There I learned the only thing that you can learn in art: the craft.


"Stone woman"


Forsaken, forgotten

So black on the shore of oats.

I do not want to measure the time,

that invented this pain.

The yellow waves cut

The new net in two.

They come, go and say:

The poor miscellany !


My crisis mirrored itself in my art as a retreat into the depths of water, for me a symbol of the unconscious.


"Paradise is underground"


Somehow for me Basel was always connected to death.

During the war I always had a knapsack packed with walking shoes, rice and pistol, so that I could join the resistance in the event of a Nazi invasion.


Loyal captain

Tell me

Show me the place in the clouds

that the wing of the swallow opened

The valley of waves in the goddess' hair

The green lights in the forest.

Here it is night

Evil brooms kill the kobolds

No wheel turns anymore.

Darkness does not know itself

Nor does it ask

It is a fist within a fist

That no one sees.


"Nightsky with black clouds"


In 1945, I met Wolfgang La Roche in Basel he was a very sensitive human being.

What I appreciated about him was that he was highly unconventional inside.

Four years later we got married in Berne, where Wolfgang worked as a business man.

My marriage was a healing experience. I felt so crazy at that time, I didn't even know how to cross the street. My husband gave me support.


The sea lies frozen on the beach

The statues fall unconscious to the ground

A thousand flashes of lightning are looking desperately for an exit

Knives fly like birds through the air.

Nothing more to hear

Nothing to see

Nothing to feel.

Whoever sees her white fingers,

is willing to transform themselves.

Everybody sheds their skin

to offer themselves to the new world.

All know that no ship will bring her back

but the horn of plenty waves.




"We can not see it"


"Flower in the forest"


"Whales in the sea"

Dreams & C.G. Jung

I read a great deal of psychology during this dark time, primarily Jung, and this helped me very much. I was looking after my little soul.


I dreamed mostly of winter, nothing was alive.


Dreams show us our situation, we don't have to look any further.

This reminds me of something Jung wrote. When he was visiting Africa, he witnessed how a chieftain would gather his men around him, when he had had an important dream, to share it with them, because it was of importance to the whole tribe.


What counts springs from the collective unconscious for me the only place from which advice and help can come.

You cannot create art with the intellect. You can produce things with the intellect, but they do not move the soul deeply.


"Some of the uncounted faces of beauty"


Sometimes you realize that you have had an important dream.

I had such a dream at the time of my 36th birthday.

Did it announce that I had arrived at the mid-point of my life ?

"I am in a Gothic cathedral standing in front of a wooden statue of a saint. He holds an hour glass in his hand. As I look at him, he turns it over."


"Sun, moon and stars"


"The bride of Solothurn hands out bats among the hungry people"


In several of my works I dealt with the figure of Genevieve.

Genevieve is the story of a young queen that had been sentenced to death because of her supposed unfaithfulness. The executioner, however, took pity on her and secretly let her go free in the forest, where she gave birth to her son 'Realm of pain'. Several years later, her husband found her whilst hunting in the forest. He realized her innocence and lead her and their son back to the castle.

Genevieve is someone who has been condemned to inactivity and who isn't allowed to demand her rights.

Years later, I understood the meaning of Genevieve for myself: My king had expelled me: this was the animus, the male part of the female soul. I realized that 'the genius' had to be the image of the animus that assists the female artist. But, precisely, during my long crisis 'my genius' had abandoned me


"The suffering of Genevieve"

Process of Transformation

At the beginning of the Fifties I had the feeling that finally things were getting better.


"I am in a landscape of snow. From behind a little hill comes a white rabbit. I try to catch it, but it gets away."

I interpreted this dream to signify that the rabbit, a symbol of fertility, was close by.


"I am at a beach. Everywhere I find eggs. There is also a basket filled with eggs."

The eggs were for me symbols of productivity, and anyway for me creativity is the "hatching of the thousand-year-old eggs".


The Phoenix was a motif of my paintings at the time. This mythical bird would, when it saw death draw near, build a nest of sweet-smelling wood, which it would then expose to the full force of the sun, until it burnt itself to ashes. A new Phoenix would arise from the flames - a universal symbol for rebirth out of one's own strength.


I wanted to complete the process of self-transformation, like the caterpillar its metamorphosis into the IMAGO, the butterfly.

In 1954 I had a flash of insight !

Who can believe in you if you do not believe in yourself?!

This insight was so strong that I couldn't sleep out of joy.

I knew now that I was freed from my self-doubt.




Finally !

Freedom !

The harpoons fly.

The rainbow is floating in the streets,

Only overshadowed by the distant humming of the giant-bees

Everyone loses everything, which they, oh so often,

have overflown in vain.

But: Genevieve:


Standing on her head

Two meters above the ground

Without arms.

Her son Realm of Pain:

Wrapped into her hair.

Small fountain.

I repeat : small fountain.

Wind and cries in the distance.


Jung once said that most of us wouldn't even make it to the neurosis. The neurosis is a call by the unconscious to develop yourself further.

I find this wonderful. I had just completed this development. I was full of hope and courage.

Then and there I decided: women can be equally great artists. But a man is encouraged a woman is discouraged.

This is the long and difficult journey for women. It is a question of the development of women's self-confidence. A creative body of work is only possible with an absolutely stable sense of confidence.

New Creativity & Playfulness

I rented a studio in Berne, and let loose again, let myself work!




In the sixties I lived a domestic life with Wolfgang in the countryside during the week. The weekends, however, I spent with friends in the city of Berne.

Our marriage was based on mutual tolerance and a free attitude. I would never have married if I hadn't known that I could live my independent life completely.

I felt attracted to people who were part of a world where different rules existed.




In the spring of 1959, I invited several friends to a feast served on the body of a woman, because she is close to the earth.

It was for me a spring-ritual for women and men alike a different kind of Easter.

A small feast which I wanted to make among friends and not the happening of an artist.


At heart I am an eternal child who loves to create spontaneous happenings.

When I see an opportunity to live out my playful side, I let my imagination go.

I don't make something by saying to myself, let's go, have courage, instead I begin in a completely playful fashion. Through play seriousness arises.


Once in a while I would go back to Paris, spend the nights in transvestite bars and visit old friends.


"Woman in front of moon"




As a child I was often ill and had to stay in bed, but I loved to look out of the window and enjoy the cloud cinema.


"Three clouds over continent"


"Summer clouds twice"


"Six clouds over bridge"


In 1967 my first retrospective took place at Moderna Muséet in Stockholm. I was so-to-speak rediscovered.


The sculpture "The green spectator" was exhibited there. To me it represents nature, which is indifferent to when life dies. The two spirals stand for the lifegiving and lifetaking forces of nature.


At the time the Moderna Muséet acquired the object "My nurse".

The only excuse why you may sell art is that you pay for something completely spiritual.

Jung told me once, 'everything that can be sold is valuable', when we were talking about 'art and money'.

This was also one of my complexes: art should not be sold.

Formerly nobody wanted to touch my things with a bargepole. Only since they have become so expensive are they being bought. This is an interesting phenomenon!


"The masked flower"


At the end of 1967, Wolfgang died.

Two weeks later I dreamt:

"I am walking at the head of a procession with the same people who were at Wolfgang's funeral. We are all dressed in black. But it is a wedding procession on the way to the Registry office. From the other direction a sledge approaches with the coffin of Wolfgang on it. I sigh and watch as it goes by.

We come to the Registry office, and go inside.

I stand at the counter and say: 'I want to marry Wolfgang La Roche. Unfortunately he died a few days ago'."


After that, my art became the most important thing to me.


"Evening-dress with breast-necklace"


"Hm-Hm'' is a painting of a druid priestess who drank human blood in rituals, and I called her 'Hm-Hm' out of fear of summoning her spirit.


There was also the sculpture "Octavia" with the saw and the lusty tongue. She refers to the "L'histoire d'O", where a tortured woman wears a mask of a small owl.


"The old snake Nature". The white head represents conscious thinking, and the black body the earth.




"I am climbing up the stony path of the mountain San Salvatore. I see my friend Irène Zurkinden standing in a lightgreen bush with sunlight shining through it. Her eyebrows and hair have a green shimmer. I say: 'I am the mystery of vegetation'."

This dream inspired me to paint a picture, where two ascending snakes lead to a blue ellipse and a white circle. For me the blue ellipse is a symbol of life and the white circle signifies death and new light.


Because life and death, yin and yang, female and male, all dualities permeate the universe.

Being creative means being open to the 'way of Nature'.

It is the poetic idea of Nature that I represent in my art.


Art generates excitement for me. It sets the mind in motion.

And the imagination? it is the landscape in which the artist goes for a walk.

Creative work is to inhale and to exhale.

When you inhale, new ideas take roots.

When you exhale, you feel empty, which is part of the creative process.

Each new thought remains rooted in the universe.


In our world art is the only thing, that connects us to our roots.

For me artists keep the access to the unconscious open.

They are seismographs of the spiritual landscape.

Artists give stability to humanity.

They express what everybody should be able to understand through their dreams.

They have roots both in the past and the future.

My Sister

I talked a great deal about important topics with my sister Kristin.

She was my confidant. We called each other Wöd and complemented each other.

I am the artist and she the intellectual. She worked as a graphologist.


My dear Wöd,

Thank you for your letter in which you tell me such fine things about my art, it makes me especially happy, because you say them.

It is mainly younger artists who have been very impressed by my retrospective in Solothurn. This is new to me and naturally I am very happy. I can hardly believe it. Because I have always been making 'the same thing'.

It is beautiful, when you write that you become transparent before my art, as if I had drawn you into my way of experiencing and creating.

It is so important to me, that you love me. I also love you very much. I hope that we can spend some beautiful days together soon.

What you write about the fear of being swamped by visual stimulation I understand only too well. I have the same experience with music which disturbs me in my hatching-sometimes-thinking process.

For me the most beautiful thing is absolute silence. Art can only be created in silence. That is why solitude is so important, always and again solitude.

It has always been an idea of mine, and of yours too of course, that it is the frustrated woman who is considered 'female'.

In order to defend new ideas, one needs courage and aggressiveness. Men who possess this, are worshipped as heroes or geniuses. Although there have always and everywhere been such women, they have simply been forgotten.

Are we really at the beginning of an era where the power of violence isn't the only one to rule? You hardly dare to believe it.

Be embraced, my dearest.

Your Wöd.


"New Stars"

Living Spaces

Since the early seventies I have been living in Berne, Paris and Carona. When I am asked: 'Where do you prefer to be?', I answer: 'I like to be where I have friends'.

When I am here in Berne and I intend to go to Paris, I find it difficult to leave because I have roots. My works are being created in a settled nomadic existence.


My dear Wöd,

Work is going so-so. I have to make sure that in the future I will have more peaceful days.

I realize my ideas as they spring to my mind. Each new idea is born complete with its form.

I can analyze my works when they are finished. Only then can I place myself in front of them and ask: what curious and strange thing have you created yet again?

I have been accused of having no style. Earlier I used to tell myself, now I have to produce four, five follow-up pictures. I tried to, but the next one was completely different. I can not and I do not want to do it. I have no formula which I work by. It is completely unimportant for a poetic work.

Loving greetings.

Your Meret.


In 1983 a fountain of mine was built in a square in the Oldtown of Berne.

When I was shown the site, I thought to myself: 'This is no square, this is a car-desert.'

I realized: the only thing that can stand here is a tower. A tower with a spiral of water around it and a spiral of plants, bringing it to life.

I find the fountain in Berne romantic.

That it was at all possible is a miracle.

I have been heavily attacked because of it.

In a democracy it is easily said: 'For gods sake, nobody is allowed to stand out from the masses.'

It is often said: 'The person who wants to achieve something in Switzerland, has to leave.'

Art is a matter of exposure, or better: one has to take an interest and engage oneself.

Paris of the Later Years

In my Paris apartment hang frescoes of mine. That is my archaeological vein. I wanted to make something like fragments out of an Etruscan grave.


I also painted there two large paintings, which I dedicated to the poetesses Brentano and Günderode.

Their intellectual friendship impressed me deeply.

The "Painting for Karoline von Günderode" is an answer to the mood that flows towards me when I read her poems, this longing for death. She speaks of this light from the hereafter, that glows in my picture from behind the shadows of the world, this light from beyond.

The "Painting for Bettina Brentano" depicts a world flooded with sunlight.

There is movement in the light, and there is the wind a symbol for movement in life. It is flooding incessantly, and her strong personality can hold it all together.

When I made the picture, I found everything so beautiful, but something was missing for me. Then I had the idea of this black line that may represent her strength of character, and not letting yourself drift, like in the Günderode painting.

Brentano and Günderode were perfect as artists, since both the rational and the emotional played a part.


Also in Paris stands a fountain of mine, "The spiral (feminine-masculine)".


My dear Wöd,

I am in a dilemma, because I've been invited to a large women's exhibition in Los Angeles. As you know, I am out of principle against such separatist exhibitions, and I am concerned that they will lead women's art into a ghetto.

Feminism is a necessary endeavor to change the situation of women in our society, because it has to be changed! But art has no gender, it is both female and male.

Personally, I consider the problem of female versus male as solved, although I know that many haven't yet reached this point.

I think there is nothing else to do but work: don't cry, work!

Men and women have to become aware, that a further development of humanity is needed, leading to a re-evaluation of the female and arriving at wholeness.

Because this is such an important change, it has to be wanted by the whole of humanity.

To a beautiful reunion, my dearest, may you be protected.

Your Wöd.


Weak, weaker, left.

The living to the left.

The dead ahead.

The stubborn will approach soon.

Who whistles once, does not belong here.

He will be sifted, respected,

And nine and well slaughtered,

And at last the hairs are empty.

I feel how my eye turns towards the forests and the moon.

I feel my compass pointing towards the nourishing proverbs.

But my beautiful crocodile.

My crocodile out of heart,

Where does your pride go ?

Casa Costanza

Since my youth I have had a vision of how the Casa Costanza could be transformed.

In 1967, I had it renovated. The Casa expresses my deep connection to my family it is a labour of love.


I gilded leaves of tin and made a chandelier, and I transformed shells into lamps.

Oh, the obsession of having to judge art, it started when I began to take my art seriously, and I realized: aha, you are an artist. If only you could never take yourself too seriously.


My dearest Wöd,

I have found the piece of paper on which I wrote what grandmama had told me when she read the tarot in 1931! She said, that after times of imbalance and inner struggle, I would become confident in myself and I would have a flash of insight. This happened in 1954, when my crisis ended.

Grandmama further read that I would suffer the greatest pain through the death of a friend. She most probably meant Wolfgang.

She also said that a great deal of suffering would enter into our home, which was the case from 1933 till the end of the war, when we had to leave Germany and father couldn't practise his profession any longer. But then things improved, like grandmama had predicted.

I have also managed now to interpret the dream which I had at the time I separated from Max Ernst.

Do you still remember this dream? where I see my murderer who threatens me with a knife.

This man, who I tried to stab, was a representative of patriarchy in myself. Also I had internalized this old attitude. It had devalued the 'female-spiritual' in me, and held back the development of the 'male-spiritual'. In the dream my father advised me not to murder the male principle, but instead to give it a push towards the change that will lead to the development of wholeness. The snake that bites its tail is for me a symbol of this found wholeness.

If you want to know other things, tell me. Dearest wishes.

Your little sister Meret.


"In a dustcloud (the beautiful African woman)"


"Brasilia, in front the white earth-snake"


"An evening in the year of 1910"


"The human condition (There we stand)"


"There she flies, the beloved"


"Reddish moon and cypresses in front of black sky"


"Star with twelve orbiting planets"


Up there in that garden

There stand my shadows

That cool my back.

They stand in that garden

They fight about old bread

And crow like cockerels.

Today I want to visit them

Today I want to greet them

And count their noses.


When you speak your own language, you may have to wait a long time before you hear an echo.

Every really new idea is an aggression, a quality absolutely opposed to the image of femininity that men have in their minds and have projected onto women.

As a woman, you have the obligation to prove through your way of life that you no longer consider valid the taboos that have kept women oppressed for thousands of years.

Nobody gives you freedom you have to take it.


"I lie on my side in the grass. Turned towards my back, a homosexual. In front of me, lying on his back, a transsexual. Without breasts. My hand inside his vagina. Great feeling of pleasure."

I awake. Say to myself, still half in my dream: Yes, I would enjoy this! "

Which role do I play ?

The one of the hermaphrodite ?

Could it be a dream connected to death ?

The hermaphroditic angel, perhaps ?


I am fully convinced that there is something in us that knows everything, surely also how we die and when.

I had this dream at the time of my 36th birthday which seemed to tell me that I would die at 72.

I trust in my dreams, I am preparing myself and I am arranging my affairs.

I will give Belvedere to piccola Meret, the daughter of my sister.


Time was long and yet short, but memory can take beautiful things with it.