(Art) The Spiritual Art Deco of Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn

Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn Swastika_Meditation_Drawing

Olga was born in London as the oldest child of Dutch parents, Truus Muysken (1855–1920), a feminist and social activist, and Albertus Kapteyn (1848–1927), an engineer and inventor and older brother of the astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn. At the end of the century the Kapteyn family moved to Zürich, Switzerland, where her mother became the center of a group of reform-minded intellectuals. There, Olga studied art history, became an avid skier and mountaineer, and in 1909 married the Croatian-Austrian flutist and conductor Iwan Hermann Fröbe, who shared a deep interest in aviation and photography with her father. In 1920 Olga and her father visited the Monte Verità Sanatorium in Ascona, Switzerland, and a few years later her father bought the Casa Gabriella, an ancient farmhouse nearby. Here Olga spent the rest of her life. She began to study Indian philosophy and meditation and to take an interest in theosophy. Among her friends and influences were German poet Ludwig Derleth, psychologist Carl Jung, and Richard Wilhelm, whose translation of the I Ching made it accessible to her.

In 1928, with as yet no clear purpose in mind, she built a conference room near her home. Carl Jung suggested that she use the conference room as a “meeting place between East and West” (Begegnungsstätte zwischen Ost und West). This gave birth to the annual meeting of intellectual minds known as Eranos, which today continues to provide an opportunity for scholars of many different fields to meet and share their research and ideas on human spirituality. The name “Eranos” was suggested to her by religious historian Rudolf Otto, whose human-centered concept of religion had a deep impact on the origins and evolution of Eranos. Carl Jung also remained a significant participant in the organisation of the Eranos conferences. Although the symposia were not specifically Jungian in focus or concept, they did employ the idea of archetypes. [Wikipedia]

With titles like “Eternal Energy” and “The Chalice in the Heart,” it’s clear that Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn sought a representative archetype beyond form. Her art is precise and geometrical and her images are often reminiscent of impossible structures: sacred geometry and the secret form of the divine. But they are as much decorative as investigative, and many, like this first image below, clearly reveal a root in the art deco movement of the 1920s.


For more from this tradition, see (Art) The Trances of Hilma af Klint.