Georgette Klein – Doctor of German Philology, Violinist, ...

Georgette Klein im Atelier

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Georgette Klein – Doctor of German Philology, Violinist, Author of diaries, Textile Artist, Actor-Director of Marionette-Plays, Sculptor, Writer, Designer, Architect, Gardener, Philosopher...

Maybe it is appropriate to declare the marvelously illuminated cube on the little hill next to the church of Barbengo as Georgette Klein’s (1893-1963) “Opus Magnum”. Klein was born in Winterthur but spent a long time of her life in Ticino where Barbengo is located.  However a more detailed analysis of her life and work reveals a lot more – it reveals a personality with never-ending energy, continuously searching for new conclusions, trying daily to develop artistic work as well as her spiritual vision.

Georgette Klein – from 1931 onwards known as Georgette Tentori-Klein – was already 38 years old when she drew the plans for the “Bauhaus” atelier Sciaredo which served as the residence she shared with her husband Luigi. Therefore, it is the second part of her life that she spent in Ticino. Unfortunately, so far not much attention has been dedicated to the first half of her life. Nevertheless, it is a rich time for Georgette and has surprising highlights.  During these years she created a marvelous napkin for the art museum of Winterthur and was the director of the “Figurentheater” at the Saffa (Schweizerische Ausstellung für Frauenfragen) in Bern in 1928.  But let’s go step by step.

Georgette Klein - die Familie im Engadin

The Klein-family on the glacier of Morteratsch in July 1911: Marcelle Klein, Louise Klein-Châtelain, Rodolfo Klein, Georgette Klein (from left to right.

Georgette Klein (born 26th July 1893) grows up in Winterthur, together with her younger sister Marcelle (b. 1895).  The family is part of the upper class of entrepreneurs in the highly industrialised city of Winterthur. The parents provide an excellent education for their intelligent daughters. Georgette studies German and French philology, Marcelle studies history. At home embroidery and music is on the program, as it is the custom in many bourgeois families of the time.  Georgette plays the violin like her mother, and Marcelle plays the piano. Performing is undoubtedly part of everyday life. 

But appearances are deceiving. The idyllic environment is limited, the daughters’ self-esteem is low, and a professionally fulfilled future is not on the horizon. It is a typical situation for young and intelligent women of this generation. In 1916 – GEO is 23 years old – now a student at the university of Zurich, she starts to write her feelings in special booklets. At the end of her life she will have completed more than 100. They are not diaries in the traditional sense of the word. We only rarely learn from these books what actually happens in her life. And yet they are journals as their author writes down her sensations in a very direct way. She tries to give words to feelings usually not shown towards the outside.

As was normal for a young woman, questions about love are at the centre of her investigations in the beginning – from the first booklet:

I would like to belong to your life just as music and colour.

I want to wear coloured clothes.

In my garden I am drawing roses for you.

I am the carpet in your house.

I am the embroidery on the walls of your life.

I am the bird that flies through your dreams.


In 1915 GEO meets “F” (the future language scientist Frederik Bodmer) and engaged with him in a relationship that is marked by grief, sorrow and endless longing. It never really becomes a legal union, and yet the relationship lasts until 1958, just short of F’s death1 in Rome. 2

In the same first booklet, she writes:

I love a tired man.

We are all tired.

Outside is war.

“If the two of us come together, there will be no synthesis. There is only a ‘going together’ because of the suffering in both of us.”

“Basically women have no relation to things. They see everything through the eyes of someone they love, only through a man.”

Only much later will she write: “There is a lot of inactive power in women”.

During this period she fears infertility probably less in a physical sense, but rather in an “animalistic” sense, as she puts it.  She probably means it in the context of creative production. This could be an essential reason why she tries to counter this fear only a short time later through the diversity of creative endeavours that she undertakes.

Until 1919 she focused primarily on her studies at the university and then on writing her thesis on the life and work of the politically engaged German lyric Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876).  Freiligrath was Germany’s equivalent to Rousseau in the 19th century. He wrote and gave lectures here and there, and preached the necessity of a revolution. He was arrested several times and was, in the end, deeply disappointed about the failure of 1848. Though Georgette Klein’s thesis focused mainly on the analysis of his lyrics, it is probable that she was impressed by his critical spirit and his relationship to Marx and Engels. But she wasn’t ready for a revolutionary break from her bourgeois milieu – the step would have been too permanentSo she stayed imprisoned by her heartsickness.

I go home in worlds.


I will be smashed and not exist anymore.

There won’t be any children of me.

I will tune the violin and take a lot of grief with me.


I went through many streets

Because of the salvation.

Now the streets have become narrow.

The walls get close.


I am crumbled away in 1000 worlds.

Will you stoop to such pieces?


But only one day later (13th of December 1917):


In me stays wild life

Whimpers and moans

And wants to enter 1000 bodies...

In parallel to her literature and philosophy studies – she also included Nietzsche in her library – GEO dedicates a lot of time to music and stitching.  Art appears very early on as a term in her diaries, but she views it in the spirit of the 19th century – as something so unreachable that she would only be able to arrive there in her old days. Therefore playing music, interpreting the sound and rhythm of famous composers, and doing craftwork - the art in service of things – are seen as more possible forms of expression for her. And not at all without success!

The Bauhaus’s ideas of unifying art and life give rise to many creative forces in Zurich’s cultural scene after the First World War. The exhibition “Das Neue Leben” at the Kunsthaus Zurich can be mentioned as one example (January 1919). There, craft works were given the same level of importance as cubist and expressionist tendencies in painting. As a result, the number of participating women was very high because craft was still a feminine arena.

The consideration of craft as equal to “fine art” allows Georgette Klein to exhibit a group of 17 craft works in the “Graphischen Kabinett” of the museum in 1919 in the context of the December exhibition of the artists’ society of Winterthur. The works are described as “carpet on a background”, “stitched cloth for scarf or tunic”, “cushion”, “headband”, “neck-embroidery”, “belt” and so on. A photograph taken in 1921 during a small exhibition of her works at her home at the Neuwiesenstrasse in Winterthur offers us an idea of what the works at that time looked like.

Georgette Klein frühe Textilien

Atelier exhibition with textile works 1921

Based on GEOs presentation of works in the cabinet, the art federation of Winterthur commissions “Miss Dr. Georgette Klein” to craft a tablecloth for the round table in the room dedicated to the painter Anton Graff.3 This work is a masterpiece! A close look reveals not only how painterly her stitching is, how she simulated the flow of a brushstroke with the loops pointing into the different directions , but also the tense balance she evokes between dynamic creation and the ornamental order of the elements around the (empty) centre.

Georgette Klein did not reach this rich and balanced informal composition through any specific artistic education. Stitching was a skill that all women of her generation had; it was part of the school and home education that women received.  But how did she come to create such a masterful composition?  The tablecloth seems to be crafted in a baroque-style, but at the same time there are clear influences of “Jugendstil”. The content of the picture could be interpreted as the display of the elements associated with spiritism which was popular at that time: the “Aura” of transmission waves, magnetic fields, light phenomena. There are however no hints that GEO would have been in touch with the discussions about the fourth dimension and spiritism.  Also Rudolf Steiner and C.G. Jung do not yet show up in her diaries at this time.

Georgette Klein Tischdecke Winterthur 1921

Tablecloth for the museum of Winterthur, 1921

During this time Georgette Klein studies the violin at the conservatorium of Zurich (her professor is Willem de Boer). On several occasions, she gets the opportunity to play with the symphony orchestra of Winterthur. She also publishes essays on art and art history in the local newspaper, The Winterthurer Tagblatt.

Sometimes these public activities show up in her diaries. In 1920 for instance she notes: “Handy craft to gain time for other tasks”. “To empower myself to wander and wander and stay alone.” But also: “Wandering makes me courageous”. Photographs from the 1920s show GEO – often together with her sister or with girlfriends – in mountain landscapes in the Ticino, her future homeland. The mountains are a benchmark for her, an area of longing as well.

Do you hear the cheering of the weaver behind the mountains?

I am the rhythm of a large skid

Through long and golden brownish days.

The earth is blue from luminous glare –

Trees paint the heaven greenish.

I go on stonesteep ways,

The wind is blowing away the spur of my steps,

Removing the limitation of my time (March 1923)

Yet GEO is not yet in the Ticino. She realises that she should separate herself from her parent’s home, but this is something her mother seems to block. “Parents protect us in a way that makes us not learn how to deal with our weapons.”

Her financial situation does not allow her to leave the parental home. But by now she has established an atelier in town and works a lot.  In 1921 she travels for the first time to Paris and throughout the 1920s she visits many other Western-European towns. Throughout her entire life she collects, sorts, and archives hundreds of notes on art and artists, piles of postcards with famous paintings, churches and cathedrals and other buildings as well as information on other fields of knowledge.

Georgette Klein Skulptur früh

Early wooden relief without date

From 1921 onwards Georgette Klein takes courses in wood carving with Carl Fischer at the “Kunstgewerbeschule Zürich”. This education in craftsmanship would give her the opportunity to overcome the cerebral literary thinking she was used to, she writes in her diary. “Finally learning to play.”

Carl Fischer (1888 – 1987) was a Zurich based sculptor who worked in a figurative and traditional style. His influence on GEO’s early work can be clearly seen in the formal language of her head-sculptures and reliefs but also in how he influences her  as one of the founders of the “Swiss marionettes-theatre” (1918-1935).4

GEO creates the first marionettes as early as 1921. They remain – changing later into hand puppets and figures – highly important for the artist until her death. Also in 1921 she writes the first plays for marionettes. These plays become a great platform for her to use her background in German philology, her humour, her affinity for ruses, sense of irony and persiflage, as well as her interests in form, movement, language, architecture, comedy, textiles, and communication.  She mostly performs (by herself and together with others) as a puppet player, but she also creates the characters and writes plays to be directed by other marionette theatres.

Georgette Klein frühe Marionetten

First marionettes

The positive reception that she receives encourages her to integrate herself more into the cultural scene (“my clothing gets brighter and brighter”) is reflected in the diaries that she continues to fill with her thoughts and feelings. The depression of 1919 seems to be gone, giving way to cautious joy.

My suffering

            It is locked in brilliant bowls of glass.

I stand steep on a high rope,

            I am a jongleur and an acrobat.

I am throwing bridges of glass

            Between heaven and clouds and star and me.

I frighten the night with firework –

            Rockets trickle back like tears.

The crowd is gaping und I am dancing

            With bowls of glass towards my balance (2-6-1921)

For Georgette Klein the concentration on handy craft means moving towards the material instead and away from the cerebral. Of literature she writes: “We are so polluted by it, that we are never secure, not to fall in it.” However, she is not certain in which direction to go. “In wood I experience the limits and the resistance. When stitching you can add as much as you like and get boundless. This last statement may explain why she decides to learn weaving in 1922, for which she travels in June/July to Weybridge, at that time a well-known centre for weaving in the southeast of England.

She uses weaving from this point on to create belts, bands, wall hangings, but also fabrics for cloths and more. Unfortunately, only few textiles survive.  Most of her creations were made to sell, while those that she kept were destroyed by insects after her death in 1963, when the Sciaredo Atelier House fell into disrepair. 

Georgette Klein Wandteppich Georgette Klein Tischlampe

Woven wall hanging (1920s), table lamp (1920s) designed by Georgette Klein/p>

It was a stroke of luck that in 2012 two first class woven works (intended to be displayed on a wall or a chest) were found in the collection of the Museum Bellerive in Zurich. The museum had bought them in 1922 and 1927 in the context of the annual exhibitions in Zurich and Winterthur. 

By looking at these and other works we know from photographs it is very clear that GEO is closer to arts and crafts ideals of the “Bauhaus” than to sculpture. She says: “you have to listen to the laws of the wood, because the wood grows, but with fabric you can do whatever you want, because it has already been made”. We also find this modernity in table lamps she designs around this time, whose feet are made by a carpenter in Winterthur according to her plans.

Doubtlessly her close relationship to the “Kunstgewerbeschule” in Zurich and the “Schweizerische Werkbund” provide her with a lot of inspiration. Her newly discovered interest in architecture has its roots in the events and the excursions of the “Werkbund” in which she participates. It seems that her artistic trajectory leads her on the one hand from arts and craft to architecture and on the other from literature to sculpture, both of which are connected to an interest in space – “I love rooms where there is still space for new furniture and people, who have not cut off themselves from their future.” Her interests in the relationship among space, furniture, and people are expressed in the puppet theatre.

The word “dance” appears in several of Georgette Klein’s poems and texts, and is not always portrayed in a positive light:

                       How much pain I have been dancing

do not look in the abyss.

                       All my power is bursting out,

sometimes so absurd.

                       I have so much turned around you

Maybe you were a star in my life...

                       Now I want to laugh and to dance:

a little spot in the universe.

                       How much pain I have danced...

Do not look in the abyss. (8_8_1918)

There are no references to dancing lessons in her biography (which would have been trendy at the time). However in 1924 she does take part in a workshop for “German Dances” in Campo in the Ticino, where the focus is on the choreography for Beethoven’s work by the same name. The experience of music and movement was apparently so important to her that she even mentions it in her diary in a short biographical statement from 1928.  The numerous photographs that show Georgette Klein as a young woman at the carnival in Winterthur reflect these preoccupations with movement, music, and disguise, offering her the freedom to create another identity, something that was not accessible in her everyday life.

Georgette Klein Deutsche Tänze

Georgette Klein was fascinated by dance as expression of form and movement.

During the 1920s she exhibits art and craft works in the craft and design museum in Winterthur as well as at the “Exposition des arts appliqués” in Paris. Unfortunately only few works are dated precisely. Also the chronology of the making of the marionettes is difficult to prove.

Georgette Klein must have been quite reputable because in 1928 she is hired as the director of the puppet theatre at the Saffa5  in Bern – a fair focusing on women’s work that was extremely important for many female artists in Switzerland. One of the  plays performed is the short opera of Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) called “Der betrogene Kadi” (the duped officer). Georgette Klein develops the puppets for it. The plans for arms and legs, that she gives to the wood turner to be made are preserved. The heads are carved as if they would be sculpted portraits. She created the clothing of the puppets and possibly even wove the fabric for them.

The two principle marionettes of “Der betrogene Kadi” are in the collection of the museum for marionettes in Freiburg.

Georgette Klein Marionetten Saffa 28

Two of the marionettes for the Saffa of 1928 in Berne.

A decisive date is to be found in half a line of her 1927 diary: “10_16_1927 purchase of the house in Barbengo”. From this point on, the family has a close relationship to Ticino. The idea of moving to the southern part of Switzerland after the retirement of Georgette’s father, Rodolfo Kleins, was an old one. Initially the family planned to move here in 1930 but already starting with late 1928 Georgette Klein decides to take up residence in the Palazzo Triulzi. She establishes her “Atelier Geo” in the house and installs a platform to perform her marionette-plays. A carved wooden hook in the ceiling is a reminder of her theatrical activities.

The stimulus for this courageous move is probably on the one hand romantic – to distance herself from the urban environment and settle in a place by herself -  but on the other it was also a sign of her desire to distance herself from Frederik Bodmer and  her parents.

She did not anticipate that she would stay in Barbengo all her life, and that this retirement would also mean isolation. At the center of this action is her search for herself: Who am I, what is my way, how can I find it and myself? She expresses these doubts in her diary and Frederik Bodmer still plays a role in her quest for meaning:

“When I am thinking of you, the consequence is always, that I am looking for my faults and my weakness... I feel prejudiced, because in you a great piece of world is in front of me. So many dead people are in your brain and so many palaces....An encounter with you is a dialogue with the world....does it stand at the beginning of my song of the world?”

And elsewhere, “You are part of a circle of reincarnations – time takes place in you – space is swinging and you swing in it.  Time is an elastic measure. Mood of modelling it. It is dancing back and forth, it makes you seasick – or it stands still and you lash on it. Space does not have borders. Nevertheless you cut a piece according to your size.  My displeasure is grating red at the steepness of the houses.”


“Music is not a sensual pleasure for me, it is an education of the spirit. Music is a form of life, where the fluid is almost impossible to be held back. It is for this reason that it helps me a lot to find and to conquer the vital fluid.”

And while Georgette is both haunted by and distanced from Frederik, she experiences the most romantic episode of her life: Legend has it that Georgette fell down a staircase in 1929 and that a certain Luigi Tentori, a professional electrician, took her in his arms and brought her to the doctor. And this was, so the story goes, the moment when they fell in love.

Luigi Tentori Barbengo

Luigi Tentori was a professional electrician, but he also cultivated his vineyard.

The two continue to meet each other in the following months and maintain an epistolary correspondence while GEO takes a gardening course in Yverdon-les-Bains in summer/autumn 1930. She should “get rid of her uncertainty and enjoy life”, advises the much more pragmatic older friend. 

In the time they spend together they develop the idea to build a house for themselves  on the hill close to the church, on the ground that belonged to the Tentori family. This is the birth of the atelier house Sciaredo. Georgette Klein draws the plans for the house in the spirit of the “Bauhaus”, inspired by her excursions with the “Werkbund” and architects from Winterthur.  Through this exposure she learned the modern language of reduced forms and harmonious proportions and was apparently capable not only of conceiving the house but also converting it into real architecture.

Tentori calls some colleagues over and in the summer months of 1932 they construct the house. It is lucky for the history of modernist architecture in Ticino that in those days it was not  strictly necessary to get exactly defined permits to build, nor were standards imposed, otherwise this house might have never been made.8

Georgette Klein - Casa Sciaredo

The Casa Sciaredo 1932 (from the east side).

In several earlier texts about Georgette’s life, the authors revealed their amusement at the marriage of the intellectual daughter of a managing director of an important enterprise in Winterthur and the Italian craftsman Luigi Tentori. The subtext was that the marriage was an arrangement that gave GEO the opportunity to separate from her father and mother and brought her the land for the house she dreamed of. 

This one-sided view is not completely correct. The relationship between Georgette and Luigi needs more consideration.

GEO was looking for her antithesis - she was in conflict with her own intellectuality and for years she has been seeking an alternative to theories that she felt had no vitality in the field of handy craft. “Luigi seems to know these borders very precisely, the point where working is no longer a pleasure, but a torture, a means: when you put too much ambition in it. He has the sensibility not to pass this border”, she writes in her diary.

The hypothetic idea of a platonic marriage is disproved in a wonderful way – there exist quite a few drawings for which Luigi posed Georgette as a model!

Georgette Klein - Porträtzeichnung Luigi Tentori Luigi Tentori - Zeichnung von Georgette Klein

Luigi Tentori seen by Georgette Klein.

The construction of the house and her marriage mean a rupture with her parents, but not complete breakup - in the photo album we see photographs that show GEO with her family, sans Luigi however. Her mother never accepted the alliance. After her marriage to Luigi, GEO starts signing her name Georgette Tentori-Klein. However, the name of Tentori has been eliminated since the recent re-evaluation of her work. 

The two do not have children – GEO would have liked it, but in 1932 she is already 39 years old. The numerous “mother&child”- sculptures she realises in the following years show the importance of the theme for the artist.

The new atelier in the Casa Sciaredo and her new life situation inspire Georgette’s artistic productivity. She creates a remarkable number of marionettes, then later hand puppets9, but also wooden sculptures and textile works. However, the textiles no longer have an artistic claim, but rather focus on the medium of handy craft. Only in the context of fashion – she designs and sews costumes for friends up until the 1950s – does GEO maintain her conceptual  (“Bauhaus”)-vision of “freedom” for the body in clothing. Moreover she not only carves the characteristic heads and hands for the marionettes, but also makes them suitable costumes. Whereas her freestanding sculptures are fully three-dimensional and focus primarily on the facial features, while others are only reliefs. We see single heads, but also mother&child representations or “sisters”. 10

Georgette Klein  Georgette Klein «Kopf» undatiert (50er-Jahre)Georgette Klein «Schwestern» undatiert (40er-Jahre)

Georgette Klein “Mother and Child”, without date (after 1935); Georgette Klein “Head”, without date (50s); Georgette Klein “Sisters”, without date (40s).

To what extent GEO understood her work as art or craft is not specified in her diaries. But what is known is that she distributed her works mostly through craft channels, such as boutiques or ateliers for original handy craft. She had connections to several such places in Morcote, in Lugano or in Ligerz (Atelier Geiger-Woerner) and to the crafts museums in Winterthur and Zurich. Starting in 1932 she rents a space in the Casino in Lugano to show and sell her works. She becomes a member of the Lyceum-Club in Lugano and shows her works also in this context.

The heads document her interest in mankind and show faces not only in their different forms, but also as reflections of their different characters. The entries in her diaries repeatedly focus on the conflict between the individual and the collective.  GEO insists that it must be everyone’s aim to find a way to overcome the individual and to enter the general, to get rid of the private and be able to feel the essence in a wider, more universal sense.

It is clear from her writings that at this point her private and artistic objectives overlap each other, but that her concepts are also specifically artistic. There is no doubt that she could have had exhibitions in galleries, but she does not seem to be very developed in her artistic self-consciousness she feels that “craft” allows her the opportunity to explore a multitude of forms of expression. Especially the mother&child works are well-received and the boutiques request more so she continues to carve works on this theme.  Do artists also create on demand?  That is a question that

cannot be answered here... GEO, whether as an artist or craftsperson, makes crib figurines or entire nativity scenes on demand for her sales outlets and earns her living from her work.  From the aspect of style she continuously develops her process and language and tries to advance her artistic vision, but the work belongs to the fluid field between art and craft.

Georgette Klein Krippe

Georgette Klein: Nativity Scene

In her Nativity Scenes we feel that the main topic is not the birth of Jesus in a religious sense, but the men who are involved in the event. The individual world of religion of Georgette Klein has to be situated in the context of a pantheistic cosmos that widens in the 1950s more and moves towards Far East religions, which was in the spirit of time. 

To be able to position the work of Georgette Klein, we must contextualize it in its historical period. The situation of Modern art of 1930s Switzerland is difficult. In 1936 the Museum of Zurich organises an exhibition called “Problems of time in Swiss Art” that places in discussion the intentions of the “Zürcher Konkreten” with those of the “Surrealists”. 

Georgette Klein Scanarelle

Georgette Klein: «Scanarelle»

But only a small public supports the break from tradition found in modernism. In painting, post-impressionism is still dominant, while in sculpture we find subtle expressive tendencies next to realistic forms. That artists like Ernst Barlach, Wilhelm Lehmbruckn were important for Georgette Klein, is clearly visible in her works. She is not a pioneer. And in the isolation of Barbengo urban inspirations do not exist. She reads a lot – especially the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. In the newspaper she cuts out all the articles that are important to her, glues them on any sort of paper and classifies in folders for contemporary and ancient art, masques, fashion, music, philosophy etc.

The NZZ was not at all, however, a progressive newspaper, and this is reflected in Georgette’s style, which mirrors a traditional aesthetic of the early 20th century.  In parallel to her sculptures, GEO is intensively focused on the puppet theatre. She continues to expand her exploration of the multitude of ways to express herself literarily. 

What is improvisation, what is comedy, she asks herself, while studying the characters of the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The children of Barbengo test the practical side of her theatrical concepts with her. She performs her plays at various locations including at the Lyceum-Club in Lugano.  During this time she is in touch with the Zurich and Ticino-based theatre journalist and puppeteer Olga Gloor (1913-2001). We know also about a conference she held on the topic that was published in 1954 in the Swiss Theatre Journal. It is remarkable how she combines the plot and the characters so harmoniously into the play.

The Zurich artist and puppeteer Elisabetha Bleisch has a collection of more than 25 figurines made by Georgette Klein. Her father – he, too, a puppeteer (and more) – bought the figurines in Morcote over a period of many years. In comparison to the earlier marionettes these demonstrate a high level of professionalism reached in the expression, gesture and – as Elisabetha Bleisch confirms –  functionality. The foundation also found out that another dozen hand puppets that had belonged to Olga Gloor survived with her godson near Schaffhausen. And last but not least another six late marionettes were discovered in the collection of the national museum of Karlsruhe in Germany which had been bought in 1960 in the context of an exhibition, for 50 Swiss francs each.

Georgette Klein Tonkopf

Georgette Klein: Head made of clay

For Georgette Klein the expression of the faces was very important – this is revealed by the great amount of clay-heads that she modelled as a draft for the carved heads of the figurines. We find the bad, the angry, the perfidious guy, the devil, the simple-minded, the peacock, the witch, the king, the queen and more.

Already in the 20s GEO notes in her diary: “Vegetarian food”. And apparently she remained a vegetarian throughout her life. This came up in an anecdote that Luigi told that from time to time he  had to visit his mother... to get a juicy piece of meat. One cannot overlook the fact that the two live quite separate lives. From 1932, Luigi lived in a space that he constructed for himself,  the so called  “Grotto”. The little house – hidden in the woods – was a refuge for him, especially after having lost his job as electrician in 1940 (second world war!) and in the context of his fragile psychic condition (after 1948). Luigi died in 1955 after a long period of illness.

For a long time the garden of Sciaredo had been above all a vineyard, but with GEO’s intensified interest in natural food, gardening, plants, herbs and spices, the area around the house changes more and more into a fruit- and vegetable garden. In booklets she writes down her experiences, often combined with drawings. She is concerned not to neglect the universal context – to integrate the house, the structure of the garden and all the growing plants into a consciously constructed “Cosmos”.

After the death of Luigi, Georgette Klein’s artistic productivity blossoms once more; her wooden work develops as never before and after about 1960 until her death in 1963 she develops a late body of work of remarkable quality. It is as if she realises now that she is finally able to create “art”, to find a vocabulary of concentrated spiritual content.

Georgette Klein «Wachstum»Georgette Klein FischGeorgette Klein «Skulptur aufstrebend»

Georgette Klein: Sculptures «Growing», «Fish» and «Emerging»

She tries to give the impression that things grow out of themselves and obey and respond to the laws of nature. More than ever before she uses the diary to express her thoughts about her own art. It is not a surprise that the name of C.G. Jung often comes up now. She continues to turn away from individual consciousness and moves toward the collective unconscious, the origin of her connection to the present. 

“At the bottom, everything is very subjective; it becomes however all the more objective as we push it away from ourselves, I will say as better as we can see it....the Chinese, Johann Sebastian Bach, C.G. Jung – they are the has to bring something inner, yet unknown and chaotic to a balance that can be seen on the outside.... one is now ready not to lose any time anymore. That is the new intensity. The maturity of the fruit, that has to drop off. Combined with the knowledge to be able to give something. That is fulfilment that does so good. It is a never reached determination. What can you do before you are fifty? You do not know the essence of life... probably one comes to the result, that the point we call “idea” (for an artistic work), does not exist, but: you start at a point and work from there onwards. And it depends on the being capable to descend deep enough, to reach a zone of the unconsciousness, out of which something new is swelling.”

The diary of 1963, which speaks of the 70th year of her life, is probably the most beautiful of all: “I am the rock and my human being is melting with it – before there was only power of nature – I do not have to tame it, only caress. All coming close has to be done with caution...I am not to destroy it, only go along with it. Fraternization. These are the pauses in the work, in which it ripens in the field of the unconsciousness.”

In September 1963 Georgette Klein dies; someone from the village finds her dead on the staircase in front of the house. It is believed that she had a heart attack.

1 The exact date of her death is not known.

2 Letters and a few photographs report it.

3 Following the report of the “Kunstverein” dealing with the collection, the library and the exhibitions of April 1920 up to March 1921. Interesting is the observation that Richard Bühler (1879-1967), who was the president of the Kunstverein at this time, was an entrepreneur in the field of textile machines, so we can assume that he had a specific relation to textile works.

4 Starting in the early 1920s, the puppet theatre saw a boom especially around the Kunstgewerbeschule of Zürich. It offered the possibility to experiment in the field of modern theatre within a limited space. Important artists created puppets here and elsewhere – think specifically of Carl Fischer and Sophie Täuber, Otto Morach, Oskar Schlemmer, Paul Klee, Fernand and Elsi Giauque and many more. In a conference in April 2013, the puppet theatre specialist, Hana Ribi, shows the influences on the oeuvre of Georgette Klein.

4a Photographs around 1925 show us that Georgette Klein wore clothes in the spirit of the Bauhaus. She certainly designed and sewed them herself. Up to her death she keeps this clothing style without any restriction for the body (yet with a lot of practical pockets).

5 Saffa is the usual abbreviation for the “Schweizerische Ausstellung für Frauenfragen” (The Swiss exhibition on women topics).

5a The puppets were up to now attributed to the puppet-play-artist Jakob Flach (1894-1982), who was originally based in Winterthur, just as GEO, and had a marionette-theatre in Ascona, later. Georgette Klein gave him a number of her marionettes after having switched over to hand puppets.

6 from 1928 onwards the diary is bilingual; later she adds Italian making it trilingual.

8 For more on this topic, compare the texts of Willi Christen on the Website and those of the magazine “contesto 1”, edited by the Ticino architect Lukas Meyer.

9 So far it is not exactly known, in which year GEO changed over to hand puppets, probably during the 1930s.

10 Unfortunately there are no surviving sculptures from the 1930s, so the interpretation relies only on photographs.

10a It is a marvelous, surprisingly emancipated play in French from 1946/47, that tells the story of a “femme malheureuse” (sad woman). It is a role with integrated drawings.  The protagonist feels herself close to a nervous breakdown and wants to get separated from her husband, who does not value her sufficiently. After having “beautified” herself, she asks a lawyer and a female friend for advice. Neither her husband nor her friend understands her feelings. The lawyer sends her to a newly opened American store where it is possible to change the programming of the soul; in a mute fish for instance or give the soul a surrealistic colouring... but all variations seem too complicated to the “femme malheureuse”. She says: There is still the possibility of suicide... but the owner of the store says laconically that this is just what a wooden carved puppet cannot do...

11 Fore more on this point read the text  “Garden” on this Website.

This text has been written by Annelise Zwez in March 2012 and adapted in Mai/June 2013. To estimate the entire work and life of Georgette Klein, more detailed texts are necessary, as there are some topics and aspects of the artistic work that are only hinted in this essay. Translation: Annelise Zwez/Olga Stefan