BY HENRIK DAHL
Over the last years, interest in esoteric art has increased greatly. Yet still relatively few are familiar with Swiss artist Emma Kunz. She herself thought that her drawings belonged to the future. If we are to believe Kunz, the time is now ripe to discover her art.
Her images functioned as therapeutic tools rather than pieces of art.
Emma Kunz (1892-1963) was a healer and a visual artist. But as for the latter she never had a career. Instead, Kunz was posthumously included in art history, and today she is looked upon as a visionary artist. Since her images are suggestive of the Buddhist maps of the universe that are known as mandalas, the description is fitting. In a 2005 review of Kunz’s drawings, art critic Jerry Saltz wrote, “You look at them with your third eye.” Originally, her artworks were not meant for the museum walls, but instead placed on the floor next to the clients that the artist was seeing; her images functioned as therapeutic tools rather than pieces of art.
The artist grew up under poor conditions in Brittnau, where her family worked as weavers. When Kunz was about 18 she started practicing healing, and claimed to have telepathic and prophetic capabilities. Later, her work made her go looking in the Swiss countryside for materials with healing properties. The search was a success. In the beginning of the 1940s, Kunz discovered a stone that she said was unique. The stone, which she found in a quarry in Würenlos, was named AION A. She was convinced of its power to heal, and felt that it had to be known to the whole of humanity. Today, the stone is an approved herbal medicine and can be bought at chemist’s shops in Switzerland. The cave where the stone was found is called the Emma Kunz Grotto.
Between 1923 and 1939 Kunz worked for the artist and art critic Jacob Friedrich Welti. It was at the end of this period, in 1938, that she started to make her typical square metre sized drawings on graph paper. The artworks were created using graphite and colour pencil, as well as wax crayon. At that point, Kunz was in her mid forties and had no formal art education.
In the early 1950s, the artist lived in Waldstatt overlooking the Säntis mountain. During this period, she published the books The Miracle of Creative Revelation and New Methods of Drawing. The books were self-published and paid for by herself. They were not the only titles that she released though. Already in 1930 she published a book of poetry called Life.
At the time of her death in 1963, Emma Kunz left behind about 400 works of art. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that her images were beginning to be exhibited in museums. It’s not unlikely that more people will pay attention to her art. In fact, this was something Kunz herself prophetically stated:
“My art is destined for the 21st Century.”
By Henrik Dahl
Henrik Dahl is a journalist and critic specialising in psychedelic culture and art.
Featured image: Swiss visual artist Emma Kunz (via Emma Kunz Zentrum).
1. Saltz, Jerry, “Mystic Rivers,” Artnet,
2. “Mein Bildwerk ist für das 21. Jahrhundert bestimmt.” According to several sources, inlcuding the Emma Kunz Zentrum in Würenlos, Switzerland, the quote dates from 1941.