Born and raised in Basel, Seligmann made his first paintings in his native country and showed them in the salons of Basel and Bern at the precocious age of eighteen.  His album of fifteen etching, Protubérances cardiaques (Paris, 1934), prefaced by Anatole Jakowksi, and other related undertakings, were evidence of his prowess as an engraver.  He moved to Paris, where in the 1930s he became a member of the surrealist group, painting composites of artificial dream figures- mixtures of geometric and partially human, automaton, phantom like forms, often attired in medieval garb, and usually roaming, dancing, jousting, or formally promenading in a nocturnal setting.  He also made objects, for example, the Soupière ailée, and his famous Ultrameuble- a stool standing on three female legs.  He emigrated to the United States in 1940, and developed such a passion for the occult that his intense studies led him to write the important book The Mirror of Magic (1948).  As an offshoot to his painting, which evolved into a cyclonic period in the 1940s, he also designed the sets and costumes for an open by Menotti and four various ballets, including Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments.  In his final works, exhibited in some of the most prestigious New York galleries, he interspersed mythological figures with elements from the mineral and plant worlds (exemplified by Manticore, 1958, Private Collection, New York; and Metamorphosis, 1959, Art Institute of Chicago).  Important collections of his work can be viewed at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Kunstmuseum in Bern.

Kurt Seligmann

Born 1900 in Basel; died 1962 in Sugar Loaf, New York. 

Game of Chance No. 2, Oil on Canvas, 1949