Permanent exhibition ‘Friedrich Dürrenmatt – writer and painter’

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-90), world-renowned writer and playwright, was also a passionate painter and illustrator, who kept most of his artistic works secret during his lifetime.  

The permanent exhibition at the Centre Dürrenmatt Neuchâtel (CDN) showcases Dürrenmatt’s visual art as it relates to his literary œuvre, and also charts his life, the influence of his work and the relevance of his ideas to today’s world.

The exhibition was renovated in 2021 and now allows all visitors to access the various facets of Dürrenmatt’s work through redesigned displays and interactive terminals.  

The visit starts on level -2 of the CDN with an introductory film about Friedrich Dürrenmatt. A panel on the topic of wine illustrates the links that can be made between his life and works. The exhibition also looks at his life through the people who mattered to him and who inspired his work. We can listen to extracts from his radio plays and find out more about his civic engagement, particularly his support of the Prague Spring.

Since 2021, the CDN has also had an open storage area. This is a true innovation in the museum world and combines exhibition space with a storage facility for the works. Visitors are free to open the drawers and discover the museum collections, in particular Dürrenmatt’s illustrations that accompany his plays.

What links Dürrenmatt to Senegal, Japan and Norway? The interactive globe explores the international response to his work and the journeys that inspired him. There is also an interactive map of Switzerland that allows visitors to explore Dürrenmatt’s links to Basel, Locarno, and other Swiss towns. 

In the grand hall on level -3, there are gouaches painted by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, as well as a selection of drawings and engravings on key themes from his work: the Minotaur, the Tower of Babel and Atlas.  A touchscreen display allows visitors to learn more about the works. Finally, his creative process is presented in display cases. As a self-taught artist, Dürrenmatt developed his own ways of working, sometimes using unlikely tools. 

Whether Dürrenmatt is your writer of choice, your favourite painter, or a distant memory from your school days, the permanent exhibition will immerse you in the multifaceted universe of a writer, painter and thinker who engaged with the whole world from his lookout above Neuchâtel.  

Dürrenmatt’s living space

The CDN was built by Mario Botta around Dürrenmatt’s first home in Neuchâtel and also comprises a second villa, a studio, a pool and gardens. The museum showcases this unique cultural heritage by allowing the public to access the writer and painter’s living space. Find out more on the following page.