Giedion-Welcker, Dr. Carola
Carola Giedion-Welcker was a collector and historian of art and literature. She wrote one of the first serious studies of twentieth-century sculpture. Titled Modern Plastic Art
(1937), the book stressed the central importance of Cubism for the development of modern art.
Giedion-Welcker earned her doctorate in 1922 after studying with the eminent German art historian Heinrich Wölfflin. She would go on to produce several important works on modern culture, including the first monograph on the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, a book on the painter Paul Klee, a study of the French poet Alfred Jarry, and an influential defense of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Giedion-Welcker lived in Zurich with her husband, the architectural historian Sigfried Giedion. The couple were close friends with Hans Arp, Brancusi, Le Corbusier, Max Ernst, Joyce, and Kurt Schwitters. The majority of Giedion-Welcker’s personal collection was acquired directly from artists, frequently in the form of gifts. Early on, she embraced the work of European abstract painters, including Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, and Lászlo Moholy-Nagy. With those artists, Giedion-Welcker and her husband shared an interest in the architectural possibilities of abstraction, a concern that also linked them to Fernand Léger, whom the couple met at the fourth Congrès Internationale d’Architecture Moderne in 1933.
Despite her interest in Cubism, Giedion-Welcker’s tendency to acquire works solely from her contemporaries and friends—coupled with the rising demand for Cubist pieces during the 1920s and ‘30s—limited her acquisition of historical works by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso. This explains her late purchase of Gris’s Still Life with Checked Tablecloth as well as its interesting provenance. Sold initially by Galerie L’Effort Moderne—which was run by Léonce Rosenberg, with whom Gris was under contract from the end of World War I—the painting passed through the collection of Dr. G. F. Reber before arriving on the market around 1950. Recognizing the work’s importance, but lacking the funds to purchase it, Giedion-Welcker advised her friend, the surgeon and collector Dr. Wilhelm Löffler to add it to his collection. Löffler did so, but bequeathed it to Giedion-Welcker upon his death in 1972, stating that he had always considered the work on “permanent loan” from her.
For more information, see
Bruderer-Oswald, Iris. Das Neue Sehen: Carola Giedion-Welcker und die Sprache der Moderne
. Bern: Benteli, 2007.
Giedion-Welcker, Carola. Contemporary Sculpture: An Evolution in Volume and Space. New York: G. Wittenborn, 1955.
Hayes, Christa-Maria Lerm “Carola Giedion-Welcker: Misrepresented Collaborator of Modernists.” In Women’s Contributions to Visual Culture, 1918–1939. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Pub, 2008.
Proceedings from a conference on Carola Giedion-Welcker held at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, June 9, 2006, are accessible by clicking here.