It’s Meret Oppenheim’s Birthday, and Yes, She Did More than the Fur-Lined Teacup

The artist was also a set designer and poet.

Meret Oppenheim.
Meret Oppenheim, Object, 1936.<br>Photo via Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Meret Oppenheim, Object (1936).
Photo via Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Today is the birthday of Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim (1913-1985), so it’s an opportune time to remember that while she is best known for Object, the 1936 sculpture that lined a teacup, saucer and spoon with fur, it isn’t all she did.

Her interest in fur, with all its tactile qualities and animal associations, also led to a couple of hair-raising design objects: a ring and a bracelet.

Meret Oppenheim, Fur Ring.<br>Photo via Gems and Ladders.

Meret Oppenheim, Fur Ring.
Photo via Gems and Ladders.

Meret Oppenheim, Fur Bracelet.<br>Photo via Gems and Ladders.

Meret Oppenheim, Fur Bracelet.
Photo via Gems and Ladders.

The teacup, in fact, resulted from a conversation Oppenheim had with Pablo Picasso and his lover and model Dora Maar at a café after they complimented her on her bracelet, according to the Museum of Modern Art. One could cover anything in fur, Picasso said, to which Oppenheim replied, “Even this cup and saucer.”

The resulting work recalls the words of the French poet Isidore Ducasse, who wrote that a young man was as beautiful as “the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella,” inspiring the Surrealists’ unlikely and inspired combinations of objects.

Her love for animal imagery also resulted in Traccia, a table whose legs recall those of a bird.

Meret Oppenheim, <i>Traccia</i>. <br>Photo via Urban Architecture, Inc.

Meret Oppenheim, Traccia.
Photo via Urban Architecture, Inc.

Among other absurdist decorative objects, she also designed a ring adorned not with a gem but with a sugar cube.

Meret Oppenheim, <i>Sugar Ring</i>. <br>Photo courtesy Gems and Ladders.

Meret Oppenheim, Sugar Ring.
Photo courtesy Gems and Ladders.

Oppenheim also served as a model for the photographer and painter Man Ray, who shot the artist numerous times: at the printing wheel, in profile, and in various cafes around Paris.

The Swiss Grand Award for Art / Prix Meret Oppenheim launched in 2001, and awards artists of great cultural distinction with a grant of 40,000 Swiss francs.

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