Unica Zürn

Ubu Gallery

Unica Zürn (1916–1970) is probably best known as Hans Bellmer’s longtime lover and sometime photographic subject, though, as Fassbinder succinctly indicated in the dedication of his 1978 film Despair—“To Antonin Artaud, Vincent van Gogh, Unica Zürn”—her contributions to cultural history go well beyond her role as flesh-and-blood poupée. She was a writer and artist who, like Artaud and van Gogh, operated in the zone in which visionary sensibility fades into mental illness—an easy place to romanticize but a difficult one in which to live.

The last decade of Zürn’s life was defined by her deteriorating grip on sanity (she ultimately committed suicide, jumping out the window of the apartment she shared with Bellmer) but also by extraordinary productivity. While her writings from those years—particularly the autobiographical fictions The Man of Jasmine (1971) and Dark Spring (1969)—secured

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