Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction

The making of the marionettes

Sophie Taeuber-Arp. The making of the marionettes

Clarissa, (marionette for King Stag). 1918. Oil on wood; fabric; metal hardware. 19 11/16 × 5 1/2 × 5 1/8" (50 × 14 × 13 cm). Museum für Gestaltung, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Zurich. Decorative Arts Collection. Courtesy Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, ZHdK.

Curatorial Assistant, Laura Braverman: The marionettes broke away from folk traditions in puppet making, in that puppets at the time were supposed to be as lifelike as possible. You were not supposed to see the way in which they were made, but Taeuber-Arp really left all of that visible.

Conservator, Lynda Zycherman: The mechanism for moving the puppets is string attached to small screw eyes. Not at the joints but kind of at the end of the appendages, and that gives them quite a jerking motion. They're not designed in classic marionette style.

What is, I think, unusual are the shapes themselves, depicting human bodies in geometric ways.

The face painting is extraordinary. Sophie Taeuber-Arp traced the shapes in pencil and then painted in between the lines. And if you look closely at most of the facial features, you can actually still make out the pencil lines.

The clothing that some of the figures wear was probably sewn by Sophie Taeuber-Arp herself because she was very skilled in needlework. There are beads, which are sewn to the garments. There are artificial flowers, and there are feathers. Her skill is astounding in so many different mediums.

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