Warja Lavater (1913 - 2007)

La Fable du Hasard

(The Fable of Luck)

Drawn by Warja Lavater

Paris: Adrien Maeght Editeur, 1968

14 folds, accordion-fold book, original lithography

15.5 x 11.0 cm, cardboard covers

With a foreword by Warja Lavater and a quote after Charles Perrault at the end

The book and its history

With this accordion book, Warja Lavater gives an insight into her working process, which begins with an intensive study of the text. On the first double page and in handwriting, she describes her relationship to the subject matter, which can be found in Perrault's "Les Souhaits Ridicules" (The Ridiculous Wishes) and in "The Poor Man and the Rich Man" of the Brothers Grimm. Warja Lavater chooses the Grimm version, but, according to her own words, tells it in a new language: "C'est le language visuel qui laisse tout liberté à l'interpretation de chacun. Ainsi se maintiennent dans la "Fable du Hasard" les dons de créer et l'imagination...." ("It's the visual language that leaves room for individual interpretation. Thus are maintained in the "Fable of Chance" the gifts of creation and imagination...") On the following double page, the artist introduces the symbols, accompanied by short texts that set the scene for the picture narrative.
Le Hasard, a god in the Grimm tale, is depicted as a blue dot or dotted lines. He is not welcome in the domain of the rich man, characterized as a black zigzag line. But the poor man and his wife take him in, both represented as an olive-green spiral in a small grey square. After Le Hasard has granted three wishes to the poor, the jealous rich man hurries after him in order to ask for the fulfilment of his wishes as well; his pursuit is represented by black, brown, and ochre, often ragged curvatures. But the rich man wastes his wishes to overcome adversities on his way home. At the end we find the poor couple happy in their bright house. The penultimate double page shows two floating spirals in green and blue in front of a cheerful background, bathed in sunlight with countless tiny dots. The last double page features a quotation from Perrault, handwritten and somewhat crooked, about the inability of many to give thanks.

Biographical note

Warja (Honegger) Lavater, born 1913 in Winterthur, died 2007 in Zurich, is the daughter of the writer Mary Lavater-Sloman. She completed her education from 1931 to 1935 at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich in the Bauhaus tradition. After study stays in Stockholm, Basel, and Paris, she founded a graphic design studio in Zurich together with Gottfried Honegger, her future husband. From 1944 to 1958, she supervised the graphic design of a youth magazine. She drew particular inspiration from contemporary American advertising graphics during various stays in New York from 1958 to 1960. With her first leporello (Folded Story 1) "Wilhelm Tell", published by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1962, she found her way to her unconventional accordion-fold books. Since the end of the 1960s, these leporellos have been published under the artist's maiden name and under the term "Imagery", which she introduced to define her particular brand of pictorial symbolism.
By means of codes or symbols, abstract forms and a well thought-out colour concept, the artist tells her own stories or well-known fairy tales completely without words. In doing so, she always remains committed to the pictorial effect, the aesthetics of the confined yet continuous picture page. This places special expectations on the imagination of her younger and older readers, who must identify and interpret the symbols and coded plot lines. Another remarkable fact is that her sequences of pictures/ picture friezes are printed as original lithographs. This clearly sets them apart from picture books printed in larger editions on smooth "industrial paper" and brings them close to the artist's book. In fact, many consider Honegger-Lavater to be a pioneer of the genre artist's book / Livre d'Artiste / Artist's Book of post-World War II. She received special support from, among others, the Parisian gallery Adrien Maeght, which had the small book objects printed in its art institution "Ateliers Arte", Paris, and still distributes them internationally, mainly in galleries and less in bookstores.
In 2003 the Haus Konstruktivin in the Zurich Library dedicated a retrospective exhibition to the artist on the occasion of her 90th birthday. Honegger-Lavater’s artistic estate is located in the Zurich Central Library.


Création graphique à la manière de Warja Lavater - http://expositions.bnf.fr/contes/pedago/creation/index.htm

Book collecting: Warja Honegger-Lavater and the glorious accordion-fold https://alcuinsociety.com/2427-2/

Princeton Graphic Arts Collection - https://www.princeton.edu/~graphicarts/2011/05/warja_lavater_imageries_1965-1.html


Christophe Meunier, "Les imageries de Warja Lavater : une mise en espace des contes...", in: Les territoires de l'album. L'espace dans les livres pour enfants. Januar 2013, https://lta.hypotheses.org/396 (20/02/20)

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