Self-Portrait – dedicated and given to Cuno Amiet (1929)
CONRAD MEILI (1895-1969)
Pencil drawing; signed, dated and inscribed: ‘figure in frate à Cuno Amiet’
In period gilt, mirrored frame
We are all familiar with the 20th century image of the screen icon with cigarette hanging from their lips. It became the stock visual vernacular for the insouciant, hard-boiled anti-hero of the new modern age. This self-portrait is quite possibly the first artwork ever to capture the pose. An alternative title perhaps: The Birth of Cool.
Born in Zurich and a pupil of Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918), Conrad Meili was a Swiss painter and writer and one the most stylish figures of 1930s Paris where he lived with his wife, the Japanese woman of letters, Kikou Yamata (1897-1975). In 1939, the couple left for a short trip to Japan, but found themselves stranded in the Land of the Rising Sun with the outbreak of World War II. Already popular in Japan, Meili became a culturally important figure in the country before returning to Paris in 1949. He became a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1956.
This drawing is dedicated to the Swiss painter and his great friend, Cuno Amiet (1868-1961) – one of the great modernists of the 20th century and perhaps the greatest Swiss artist of all time.