Laura B. Goeldlin de Tiefenau
Sapho se précipitant dans la mer (Sappho throwing herself in the sea), 1943
Laura B. Goeldlin de Tiefenau was born in the United States and studied painting and sculpting in Santa Barbara, California. When she moved to Switzerland in 1928, her sculptures took a symbolic, mystical turn: she produced wood carvings and clay and plaster models of a Virgin and Child, a prophet in ecstasy, Saint Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds, Leda and the swans, and Don Quixote sitting stiff-backed on his worn-out nag.
Goeldlin de Tiefenau’s art is imbued with a singular energy and a raw, painful strength. Her figures are often emaciated and elongated as she wrestled form from matter. Her larger works in walnut and sequoia were carved from chunks of wood too heavy for her to carry into her studio: she would simply sculpt them with a mallet and chisel in a wheelbarrow in her garden.
This bronze and stone piece depicts the most dramatic episode in the life of the Greek poetess Sappho, said to have thrown herself from a cliff on the island of Leucate for love of the beautiful young man Phaon. Goeldlin de Tiefenau’s Sappho reclines in a tortured pose. Her hair is unkempt, her lips parted, her toes fanned. The long fingers of her left hand dig painfully into her breast. Her splayed thighs force us to confront her most private self as her body writhes in pleasure and pain.
Michel Thévoz, Laura B. Goeldlin de Tiefenau, exh. cat. Vevey, Galerie Zabbeni, 1994.