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book (design) story #25

georg schmidt:
sophie taeuber-arp

holbein-verlag, basel, 1948
printer: benteli ag., bern-bümpliz
size: 30 x 21 cm
designer: max bill

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swiss-born sophie henriette taeuber-arp (1889-1943) is one of the great artists of the 20th century. together with jean (hans) arp, whom she married in 1922, she was active in the zürich dada movement. later the arps lived in meudon near paris.

when the german army invaded france, the two artists – "degenerate" by nazi standards – fled to grasse near nice in the unoccupied south. after celebrating the new year 1943 in max bill's house in zürich-höngg, sophie taeuber-arp tragically died on the 13th of january: apparently she was asphyxated in her sleep by carbon monoxide fumes from a stove in bill's house. five years later georg schmidt (1896-1965), museum director in basel, published this monograph and calatogue raisonné. max bill (1908-1994) designed the book.

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one of sophie taeuber's drawings is reproduced on the blue cover, visible through the half-transparent dust wrapper on which the title etc. is printed in red. these printed glassine jackets became quite popular at the time (see my next story). the page shown below is about sophie's last nine drawings which were published in a book we will talk about later.

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with its norm format (din a4), sans-serif type and unusual page layout this book is a fine example of swiss "new new typography". there are also some beautiful hand-printed colour lithographs bound in.

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by the way: most swiss people carry sophie taeuber-arp's picture in their wallet – not because they love her art, but because she is featured on the 50 franc note.

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