Miriam Cahn
das klassische lieben – femmes (classic love – women), 1981

  • Miriam Cahn (Bâle, 1949)
  • das klassische lieben – femmes (classic love – women), 1981
  • Series of eight drawings in charcoal and coal on tracing paper, various dimensions
  • Acquisition, 1983
  • Inv. 1983-030
  • © Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne
    © Miriam Cahn

For Miriam Cahn, the body is more than just a tool; it is also her subject. It makes perfect sense to her to depict the body that enables her to create. She produces art from her own inner being, as though her body were an echo chamber for various memories and experiences that are purged through creativity. The physical effort involved in producing her works goes hand in hand with the subjective perspective she postulates.

das klassische lieben is a major creative cycle in which Cahn draws and paints male and female nudes in simplified form, with no individual characteristics, their contours elongated or bulky. She conveys heterosexual relationships, describing them with a hint of irony as ‘classic love’, denouncing their social and normative construction. The large drawings on tracing paper were produced on the floor. Displayed vertically on a wall, they generate an image of bodies clinging together. Their gazes are turned outward to the viewer, calling on us as witness to a dazzlingly aggressive private moment.

In the set of eight drawings entitled das klassische lieben – femmes, the principle remains the same but the effect is different. Cahn places us beneath the bodies, making us the partner they have collapsed onto. Her women have no waistline or hair. Their arms and legs are barely sketched in. They lose their outline because they are experienced inwardly. Only their breasts and genitals are marked, sometimes outrageously so as in this case, proclaiming their gender identity. The marks left by the artist’s fingers generate a spectral tremor. Her hands become those of the women she depicts, who are both individuals in their own right and representatives of womanhood in general.


Catherine Lepdor, Patrick Schaefer and Jörg Zutter, Identités et affinités. Art suisse contemporain dans la collection du Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Les Cahiers du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne 3, 1996: 7-8.

Erika Billeter (ed.), Chefs-d’œuvre du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. Regards sur 150 tableaux, Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1989: 330.

Miriam Cahn. Arbeiten 1979-1983, exh. cat. Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Basler Kunstverein, 1983.