OPPENHEIM, MERET. (1913-1985). Swiss-German artist who was the leading female surrealist. ALS. (“Meret Oppenheim”). 1p. Oblong 8vo. Bern, April 17, 1975. Written on her personal stationery to German art historian SIEGFRIED SALZMANN (1928-1994), director of the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg from 1971-1984. In German with translation.
ALS Written on Her Personal Stationery from the Swiss-German Artist Who Was the Leading Female Surrealist
Signed by Meret Oppenheim
“I’m writing to say that it would be most convenient to go to Duisburg one or two days before the end of the exhibition (if that is desired), so that I can pack the ‘Reisegalerie’ [The Travel Gallery] (the little suitcases) myself. I have just received the copy of H. Heissenbüttel’s ‘speech.’ Really very nice. A poet…”
Oppenheim was interested in art and psychoanalysis from an early age, collecting the work of Paul Klee and recording her dreams after her psychoanalyst father introduced her to the work of Carl Jung. In 1932, she met Hans Arp and Alberto Giacometti while studying in Paris who, impressed with her work, invited her to participate in the Surrealist exhibition at the Salon des Surindépendants. Soon after, she became a disciple of André Breton who greatly admired her work, and she became an important part of the artistic circle that included Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and Man Ray, for whom she posed in his famous series of photographs, Erotique Voilée. She held her first solo exhibition in 1936.
Oppenheim’s work used everyday objects to explore themes of sexuality, domination, submission, and gender. Perhaps her most famous work is her 1936 Object in Fur, a teacup, saucer and spoon covered in the fur of a Chinese gazelle, which Breton retitled Dejeuner en Fourrure for the Exposition Surréaliste d’objet. Working in painting, collage, sculpture, wood, fabric, and fur, she struggled to make a career as an artist in a world that saw her as an object as she was in Man Ray’s photographs. Regarding her role as a female artist, she famously stated, “Freedom is not given; one has to take it.”
Her achievements include designing the costumes and sets for Picasso’s play Le Désir attrapé par la queue, collaborations with fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli including her iconic gloves with painted red finger nails, and, in 1959, she held a private performance entitled Spring Banquet, in which those present dined on food served on a naked woman’s body, one of the most famous events in modern art. At Breton’s request, the event was repeated at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme in Paris, but retitled Cannibal Feast. Oppenheim’s influence can be directly seen on the art of everyone from Judy Chicago to Lady Gaga.
Several of Oppenheim’s 1969 works are entitled Reisegalerie, including a collage in fur and a paper and cardboard collage. Our letter refers to an exhibition of her works at the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg that ran from March 23 to May 25, 1975.
German novelist and poet Helmut Heißenbüttel (1921-1996) contributed to a 1974 catalogue for the Swiss Museum Solothurn, which also included essays by Oppenheim and Max Ernst. Later, he contributed text to the volume Meret Oppenheim: Spuren durchstandener Freiheit and the catalogue for her 1985 exhibition in Stuttgart.
In excellent condition and scarce.