The artistic oeuvre - Dürrenmatt the painter

For quite some time, Dürrenmatt’s art, in which he had indulged already at a very young age, remained unknown to the public. His “dramaturgical” works are often reinterpretations of mythological or religious themes. The Dürrenmatt Collection comprises about 1000 original works of art and several sketchbooks.

Foto: Monique Jacot, 1963.
Foto: Monique Jacot, 1963.
© Monique Jacot / Fotostiftung Schweiz

Standing at the threshold of his studies, Dürrenmatt wrote his father: "It's not a matter of deciding whether or not I shall become an artist, for that cannot be decided  - you become one out of necessity. [...] For me, the problem lies elsewhere. Should I paint or should I write? I feel drawn to both." Although he chose to make writing his profession, Dürrenmatt would continue to paint and draw for the rest of his life. With the exception of several caricatures and book illustrations, his artistic oeuvre was not publicized until 1975. In 1978, introducing the first illustrated volume of his art works, he would write: "My drawings are not subsidiary to my literary works; they are the drawn and painted battlefields on which my literary struggles, adventures, experiments and defeats take place." In the main, the links between his drawings and his writing are quite tenuous. His imagery focuses above all on mythological and religious themes, such as that of the labyrinth and the Minotaur, the Tower of Babel or the Crucifixion. Then, too, in parallel to writing certain texts ((Es steht geschrieben, König Johann, Minotaurus, Midas), he created several series of drawings. Although Dürrenmatt was indubitably influenced by Expressionism, other artists - Bosch, Brueghel, Piranese, Goya and the Swiss painter Varlin (a friend of his) come to mind - also left their unmistakeable mark on his oeuvre.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt beim Zeichnen, 1948 Foto: Rolf Jeck
Friedrich Dürrenmatt beim Zeichnen, 1948 Foto: Rolf Jeck

The Centre Dürrenmatt's holdings comprise some 1000 original works of art, a set of notebooks with Dürrenmatt's childhood drawings, and the story-telling drawings he created for his own children.

In addition to the Centre Dürrenmatt's collection, there exist several private collections of Dürrenmatt's works, including notably the collection belonging to the family of the restaurateur and great art lover Hans Liechti, a friend of Dürrenmatt's.

Inventory of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's artistic work: Appeal to private owners of works

Selbstporträt, 1982
Friedrich Dürrenmatt, «Selbstporträt», 1982, Gouache, 102 x 72 cm, Sammlung Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel
© CDN/Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft

The Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel (CDN) is working on an inventory project that involves cataloguing Friedrich Dürrenmatt's entire pictorial oeuvre as completely as possible.

For this reason, the CDN would like to get in touch with previously unknown private owners of works by Friedrich Dürrenmatt and asks them to contact the address on the right.