Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The unknown art of Lill Tschudi

The Swiss artist Lill Tschudi (1911-2004) is now very well-known, and examples of her linocuts change hands at high prices. But the art that everyone knows stems from just one decade, 1929-1939, the heady decade after her initial studies under Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School of Art from 1929-1930. What happened after that? According to Margaret Timmers in Impressions of the 20th Century: Fine Art Prints from the V&A Collection (V&A Publications, 2001), “After 1939 – by which time linocut exhibitions were no longer popular – Tschudi’s work started to become more abstract: she wrote to Flight that as a result of the war she felt that she was no longer able to depict humanity with optimism and that pure abstraction was the only way left to her.”

Lill Tschudi was born in Schwanden in the Swiss canton of Glarus, where she lived most of her life. Inspired by the work of Norbertine Bresslern-Roth, Tschudi came to London to study the art of the linocut under Claude Flight. Flight in turn had been inspired by the work of the Viennese teacher Franz Cisek (who essentially invented the linocut), but took Cisek's monochrome work in a new colourful direction, inspiring a number of artists to create powerful and rhythmic Futurist colour linocuts in the 1930s; the most important members of this group are Claude Flight, Sybil Andrews, Cyril Power, and Lill Tschudi.

From 1931-1933 Tschudi, while staying in close touch with Flight, continued her studies in Paris, under André Lhote, and under Gino Severini at the Académie Ranson and Fernand Léger at the Académie Moderne. Between 1930 and 1939 Tschdi created 65 linocuts, many of them showing energetic scenes of skiers, hockey players, circus performers and the like.

After WWII Tschudi's work became almost exclusively abstract. Long neglected in her homeland, Lill Tschudi's art was brought back into public notice in 1979 by the book Tschudi: Vom Figurativen zur abstrakten Expression by Hans Neuburg. In 1986 Lill Tschudi was awarded the Swiss national print prize for her life's work. In 1998 came the first important retrospective, Lill Tschudi: Linolschnitte 1930-1997 at the Museum Schloss Moyland, followed by two further exhibitions at the Kunsthaus Glarus in 2001 and 2004. In the meantime Lill Tschudi's international reputation has continued to grow, and her prints have become increasingly sought after.

I have 32 original linocuts by Lill Tschudi, probably printed by the artist herself, reflecting a hitherto unknown side of her art. They were made in 1941 as a suite of loose prints to accompany a booklet by Ida Tschudi-Schümperlin and Dr. Jakob Winteler-Marty, published by the Historischen Vereins des Kantons Glarus, entitled Glarner Gemeindewappen (Municipal Coats-of-Arms of Glarus). All my images are original linocuts from this work.

How many copies of this special-interest work were published is unknown, but there cannot have been many, and it seems now of the greatest rarity.

The linocuts were made after drawings by Ida Tschudi-Schümperlin (the artist's sister?). Until you see them, you might think them of extremely limited interest, but in fact they are images of great beauty and simplicity, and an extraordinary record of the love for her homeland that evidently occupied Lill Tschudi's mind during the dark days of WWII.


Will said...

Neil, thanks so much for sharing these.

Just last week I discovered Tschudi, Flight, Andrews, and Power via the book Rhythms of Modern Life. I almost featured Sybil Andrews last night.

Neil said...

Their work is wonderful, isn't it? Andrews I think is the one I like best, but they were all good. Clive over at Art and the Aesthete often blogs about Grosvenor School artists, including some of the Australians.

bibble said...

Wow, really interesting Neil, and in some ways capturing the essence of Lill Tschudi.