The German-born Swiss surrealist Meret Oppenheim may be best known for one of the most realized objects of the movement: Her 1936 “Object,” — a teacup, saucer and spoon covered with the fur of a Chinese gazelle.
It’s not part of the current exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, but it hovers over it, as it did her long career. “Meret Oppenheim: Tender Friendships” is made up of other objects that explored her wide interest in painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry and costume design — and the personal associations that inspired her through her career. Here’s more measure of Meret Oppenheim:
Woman artist to have a piece purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, her famous fur-lined teacup, a 1971 poster of which is in the Museum of Women in the Arts exhibit.
Boots fused together at the toe to make up “The Couple” shown in a 1973 print.
Age of Oppenheim when she declared her intention toward art, when she drew an impossible variation of a math equation that better suited her later life, “X = hare.”
Number of art books in the exhibit, including one from late in her life, “Caroline” that was an early purchase for the Museum of Women in the Arts book collection.
Number of postcards in the exhibit that she wrote on and sent out. There were also two letters, including a 1978 one to Lamia Doumato, head of reader services at the National Gallery of Art, with a P.S. that reminded her how to spell her name: “Oppenheim, not “Oppenheimer.”
The year a Swiss postage stamp was issued with the image of Oppenheim’s 1964 painting, “Under the Raincloud.”
Number of couples present when Oppenheim staged her Spring Festival dinner, in which food was served atop a nude female in 1957, an occasion repeated in 1959.
Height, in inches, of gold-plated wooden “Table with Bird’s Feet” that seems to have the spindly bronze feet of a bird.
Number of pairs of gloves made for a Deluxe Edition of Parkett Magazine No. 4 in 1985, with red veins of the hands silk screened atop the goat suede, after a design from the early 1940s.
Photographs by Man Ray in prints and in books in the exhibit, including a famous one of Oppenheim nude behind a printing press, her forearm black with ink.
Colors painted atop a 1978 photograph to make her 1981 “Self Portrait.”
Year that Oppenheim uttered the famous statement in an acceptance speech for an award from the city of Basel: “Nobody will give you freedom; you have to take it.”
Age of Oppenheim when she died in 1985 in Basel.
Meret Oppenheim: Tender Friendships continues through Sept. 14 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. Admission is half price on Sundays through August. Call 202-783-5000 or visit nmwa.org.
Catlin is a freelance writer.