Saturday, July 26, 2014

Your papers please

As a creative and designer I have always loved passports, passport stamps and the design of official state documentation. I am in the midst of renewing my Swiss passport, so finding two early 19th century passports that belonged to my great-great-great-grandfather, Albert de Büren was very timely.

I loved finding and examining these treasures. Everything about them interests me, the design of the document, the stamps and the handwriting of each individual. In looking at each stamp, I am transported to these European locales, and I start to ponder: What was my ancestor thinking at the time? How was he treated by the official who signed his pass? What uniform did the official wear? Where was the document stamped, etc., etc.

The first document is a Prussian passport from Albert's 1813 journey to Breslau (now in Western Poland) and Vienna.

Passport front

Passport front detail

Stamp from Breslau

Stamp from Vienna as well as the Swiss consulate in Vienna

Return route stamp from Munich

Return route stamp from Zürich

The second document is a Neuchâtel passport from Albert's 1818 journey to Nice which was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia at the time.

Passport front

Passport detail – Coat of Arms

Passport detail – Physical characteristics

Albert's signature

Passport underside

Stamp of the French legation to Switzerland

Stamp of the Sardinian legation to Switzerland

Stamp of the Swiss consulate in Marseille

Stamps from Nizza (Nice)

Return stamp from Lyon

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Une artiste genevoise

My great-aunt Natalie de Buren was a very talented artist and I have often felt that she never received the exposure her art deserved. Whether that was a product of the time, or her desire not to have her work continuously shown is unclear. As a token of my personal esteem for her creative body of work I designed a small booklet to introduce more people to her genius.

She was born in 1903 in the small town of Santa Victoria near Chazón in the Argentine state of Córdoba, where her father had emigrated 12 years earlier from Switzerland to start a cattle ranch. She was the fourth of eight children and lived on the family ranch known as “La Elisa” until she was seven, when in 1911, the de Buren family returned to Switzerland for the children’s schooling. Only Natalie’s younger brother Charles (Carlos) would return to Argentina to live—he appears to have been given no choice. Most of the children when they came of age preferred to stay in Switzerland.

Natalie had a great passion for art, one that was certainly nurtured by a recognition that she was continuing a long family tradition of creative endeavors. She was a prolific artist, her most important creative period occurring between the two world wars. She engaged in many artistic styles, but sculpture appears to be her first love.

Like many artists of her generation, she looked beyond Europe’s borders for creative inspiration. Hers came in the 1930s when she ventured to Haiti to visit her sister Jeanne who had married a major coffee exporter on the island. One of the most successful art shows (and tragically, one of the only I can find information on) for Natalie came when she displayed her “Martiniquaises” inspired by Caribbean latitudes.

In 1940, Natalie would marry Alfred Copponex, a dashing man from an old Geneva family eight years her senior. Alfred was a widower, his first wife Rachel Hélène Revilliod, an extremely talented watercolorist died in 1937, leaving a young daughter that Natalie helped raise.

I met Natalie for the first time in the mid-1980s in French-speaking Switzerland when she was being cared for at a nursing home. She was still a beautiful woman, but tragically the ravages of dementia were slowly taking their toll. In that afternoon meeting one thing was clear, she still cared deeply about her art. She became visibly agitated when she pondered about who would look after her life’s creative work. It almost seemed like a plea for help.

Soon after much of her art—which had not had any interest—was purchased by my father and brought to California. As she was a relatively unknown artist, it is my view that he saved many or her drawings and sculptures from an unknown fate.

Natalie de Buren, une artiste genevoise can be purchased through blurb here. Enjoy.


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