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Artists Meret Oppenheim
Meret Oppenheim Photo

Meret Oppenheim

Swiss Painter and Sculptor

Born: October 6, 1913 - Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany

Died: November 15, 1985 - Berne, Switzerland

Meret Oppenheim Timeline

Quotes

"Every idea is born with its form. I make reality of ideas as they come into my head."
Meret Oppenheim
"I love natural materials. But everything man makes is nature, even plastic, even the atomic bomb."
Meret Oppenheim
"It's the artists who do the dreaming for society."
Meret Oppenheim
"Woman is a sandwich covered in white marble. Who covers a soup spoon in precious fur? Little Meret. Who has outdone us all? Little Meret."
Max Ernst

"Freedom is not given to you - you have to take it."

Meret Oppenheim Signature

Synopsis

Meret Oppenheim's notebook from high school math class contains the following equation: "X= an Orange Rabbit". André Breton (the pope of Surrealism) loved this so much he published the whole notebook. With the looks of a Hollywood film star, and the brain of a mad scientist, Oppenheim managed to persuade the Surrealists to allow her to join their circle (which until then was strictly no-girls-allowed). Her fetishistic sculptures, fashioned from teacups, fur, high heels and other feminine domestic objects, address the themes of food, sex, death, cannibalism and bondage, always with a mischievous twist. Her famous fur-lined teacup was instantly embraced by the Surrealists as the quintessential expression of their movement.

Key Ideas

Of all the Surrealists, she took Breton's call "to hound the mad beast of function" most literally. Her sculptures repurpose household objects intended to serve one function and suggest another, usually outrageous, function for which they might be used.
Oppenheim was the only Surrealist who had any authority on psychoanalysis. Born into a family of Swiss analysts, Oppenheim was steeped in psychoanalytic theory and followed the teachings of Carl Gustav Jung. Throughout her life, she kept a dream diary that served as a wellspring for her creativity.
Oppenheim's work with the fashion industry helped break down the barriers between fine art and fashion. The line of Surrealist gloves she designed for the high-end clothier Elsa Schiaparelli (who went on to collaborate with Salvador Dalí) were especially cutting-edge, and continue to be widely imitated.
Although Oppenheim is normally aligned with Surrealism, her daring use of found objects is straight-up Dada. She is a key transitional figure, linking the two movements.
At a time when the only acceptable role for a woman in the art world was mistress or muse, Oppenheim made it as an artist. She broke the glass ceiling of Surrealism and beat it at its own game, harnessing the power of fantasies about dominance and submission (prevalent themes in Surrealist art) in an effort to destroy them.

Biography

Meret Oppenheim Photo

Childhood

Oppenheim grew up in Switzerland in a progressive, intellectual family. Her grandmother was active in the Swiss women's rights movement, and her aunt encouraged her to collect prints by Paul Klee, an important early influence on the young artist. Oppenheim's father was a psychoanalyst. At his recommendation, she recorded her dreams (which, according to psychoanalytic theory, provide insight into the unconscious) as a teenager and continued this practice for the rest of her life. The Surrealist 'pope' André Breton, an early champion of her work, later published some of these early writings in Le Cahier d'une Écolière (1957). Her dream images inspired her earliest paintings in 1931, among them Wurgeengel (an angel strangling an infant) and Suicides' Institute (a boy receives instruction on how to hang himself). By her late teens, Oppenheim was beginning to find life in Switzerland a little confining, and consulted her grandmother about whether or not to attend art school in Paris. Her grandmother conducted a Tarot card reading that predicted Oppenheim's life would be full of struggle, but ultimately deeply fulfilling from a creative standpoint. Oppenheim later remembered that that was the permission she needed to make the "conscious decision to be free" and move to Paris.

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Meret Oppenheim Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Meret Oppenheim
Interactive chart with Meret Oppenheim's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul KleePaul Klee
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti

Personal Contacts

Man RayMan Ray
André BretonAndré Breton

Movements

ExpressionismExpressionism
DadaDada
SurrealismSurrealism

Influences on Artist
Meret Oppenheim
Meret Oppenheim
Years Worked: 1932-1985
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois
Birgit JurgenssenBirgit Jurgenssen

Personal Contacts

Max ErnstMax Ernst
Man RayMan Ray

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Pop ArtPop Art
Feminist ArtFeminist Art

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein
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