December 14, 2008

Armand Schulthess, Der garten des Wissens/The garden of knowledge


Life and works

Swiss born Armand Schulthess (1901-1972) from 1921-1935 owned a shop in ladieswear, which had to close due to the economic recession. Subsequently he got a job in a government department a job he left in 1951 to retire into a secluded house in Auressio, canton Tessin, he owned since 1941.

Living on his own (his two marriages had failed), he began a project that included the inventarisation of all human knowledge, which he did by writing down referrals, annotations, quotes, etc on small plates.

Schulpthess attached these lead or tin plates, often bundled and interconnected with ropes, to the trees and the bushes in the large chestnut garden of some 18.000 m2 (4.4 acres) around the house. Paths in the garden would lead eventual visitors more or less systematically through the whole of human knowledge.


Schulthess made thousands of these plates. In this way he reconstructed the garden into an art environment that has become known as the "garden of knowledge"..

Apart from these plates, he made annotations on paper about everything which can be known about human culture and history, like he also singlehandedly composed illustrated books about sexuality, alltogether some seventy big volumes, which probably happened to be a rather artistic collection.

Over the years Schulthess' life became more and more isolated, although some representatives of the Swiss artistic world who were interested in his activities, occasionaly could visit him.

In 1972 he was found dead in his garden,.

Schulthess' oeuvre almost completely destroyed

The next year the inheritors restored the garden into its original condition and removed/demolished almost all plates and almost all books, in this way depriving Switzerland of a very special art environment.

Only a few of  Schulthess' works have been saved. The Museo Casa Anatta on the Monte Verità near Ascona in Switzerland has a room with a number of these saved works and the Collection d'Art Brut in Lausanne also has a number of plates and books.

Swiss photographer and filmmaker Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf, in preparing a movie about Armand Schulthess, between 1963 and 1972 visited him regularly and made a lot of pictures, both of the exterior and the interior of the house. In 1973 he also succeeded in saving some of Schulthess' singlehandedly made books. Pictures and impressions of the books have been published in 2011 (see documentation)

Documentation 
J'ai le télephone (Switzerland, 1974), film by Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf
*  M Britschgi (red)S.Corinna Bille (text), Theo Frey (photographs)Armand Schulthess 1901-1972. Luzern (Diopter Verlag), 1996 -138 p.
* Article on the website of the Lausanne art brut museum, with biography
* Article on SPACES website (around 2012)
* Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf, Armand Schulthess. Rekonstruktion eines Universums (Reconstruction of a universe), Zürich (Ed Patrick Frey), 2011. -400 p, ill.  (Availabale on DVD)
* Armand Schulthess: Il giardino della conoscenza, essays by Ricardo Carazzetti and Bianca Tosatti, photographs by Hans Bruderlin. Bellinzona (Ed Sottoscala), 2013
* Video (6'24") of a broadcast by Swiss TV, Kulturplatz, 27-4-2011


first published dec 2008, revised may 2011, sept 2012, nov 2013, jan oct 2014

Armand Schulthess
Der Garten des Wissens
Auressio, Tessin, CH
site demolished

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