Meret Oppenheim

Meret Oppenheim um 1940
Courtesy Nachlass Meret Oppenheims, Lisa Wenger
1913 – 1985 / Swiss installation artist and poet of surrealism
„Don’t cry, work“
Meret Oppenheim

Upbringing and Education

In 1913, Meret Oppenheim was born in Charlottenburg (now Berlin, Germany) into a German-Swiss family with a Jewish background. She mainly grew up in Switzerland and began to study in Paris in 1933.

Uniquely Surrealistic

Oppenheim becomes a member of the surrealist group around André Breton:  Man Ray photographed her for his cycle of paintings “Érotique voilée”, making her known as the “Muse of the Surrealists.”  However ,above all, Oppenheim manages to create a piece that will quickly become a symbol and primary example of Surrealism with her fur-covered coffee cup “Déjeuner en fourrure” (“Breakfast in Fur”) in 1936.

Man Rays Fotografie von Meret Oppenheim, 1933
© Man Ray Trust 2015 / VG BILDKUNST 2021
Re-focusing on design

Already in the 1930s, Oppenheim changes her artistic orientation in her new home in Basel.  She joins the group 33 and attends the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel.  From the mid-1950s onwards Oppenheim creates fashion and furniture designs, as well as costumes and masks. She retains her often absurd, creative handwriting.  She also writes poetry.

Late recognition

From the 1960s onwards, retrospectives were dedicated to Oppenheim at various art venues in Europe.  She herself does not commit to a single point of focus for her artistic creations and life in general and worked on various art projects until her death in 1985.  For a long time the artist had not been financially successful, and it was only in her later years that she gained recognition and was honoured with prizes.