Lavater, Johann Kaspar

Lavater, Johann Kaspar

Lavater, Johann Kaspar, 1741-1801, Swiss theologian and mystic. He wrote several books on metaphysics, but he is chiefly remembered for his work on physiognomy, the art of determining character from facial characteristics.

Warja Honegger-Lavater (September 28, 1913 - May 3, 2007) was born in Winterthur, Switzerland. She was a Swiss artist and illustrator noted primarily for working in the artist's books genre by creating accordion fold books that re-tell classic fairy tales with symbols rather than words (or even pictures).

Personal life

Honegger-Lavater spent the first nine years of her life in Moscow and Athens. In 1922, her mother (the author Mary Lavater-Sloman) and father Emil Lavater (an engineer) settled the family back in Wintherthur. After attending High School, Honegger-Lavater studied graphic arts in Zurich from 1931 to 1935 at the Fachklasse für Grafik an der Kunstgewerbeschule Grafik (School of Applied Arts). It was here, in 1932, she began studying under Ernst Keller in a class of 28 of which 7 were women. Later in life, Lavater recalled this training:

What we were learning was design, and so we began with the most important thing, drawing. Where do you put a sign in a rectangle? What is the standard solution to this exercise? Should the strongest element be the sign or the drawing? How can both be distinguished at a distance, yet integrated in a composition?

Studying in Stockholm, Basel, and Paris, she opened her own studio for applied design in Zurich in 1937 with Gottfried Honegger, her future husband. It was here that Honegger-Lavater embarked on her first profession as a designer of symbols, logos, and trademarks. Among her initial creations were the three keys logo of the Schweizerischen Bankverein (Swiss Bank Corporation) and the logo for the Swiss National Exhibition of 1939.

After marrying Honegger in 1940, she bore two daughters: Bettina (1943) and Cornelia (1944).

From 1944 to 1958 she worked extensively with the young person's magazine Jeunesse designing the covers, supplying illustrations, and being responsible for typography.

Moving to New York in 1958, she began designing scientific illustrations for the publisher Visuals. It was during this early period in New York that Honegger-Lavater became influenced by American street advertising and began to utilize pictograms as graphic representations of linguistic elements in her work. In 1962 she finished her first book, William Tell, which was published by New York's Museum of Modern Art. This work consisted of a single sheet lithograph, accordion folded, with a legend listing the meanings of the various symbols (e.g., a single blue dot represents William Tell). The story proceeds chronologically as the book unfolds, and told entirely by using the symbols without words. She produced a growing number of similar works throughout the rest of her career.

By 1995 she was creating videos of colors and symbols moving across a screen, set to music.

At the time of her death she was retired and residing outside of Zurich.

Honegger-Lavater was a direct descendent of the Swiss poet and physiognomist Johann Kaspar Lavater.

Early work in artists' books

Lavater's 1962 publication of William Tell predates Edward Ruscha's book Twentysix Gasoline Stations which was published in 1963. Ruscha's book has been cited by some as the first modern artist's book. This claim can now be contested noting that Lavater's work, as well as that of another Swiss-German artist, Dieter Roth, preceded Ruscha.

Starting in 1963, the Paris based publisher Adrien Maeght began publication of a series of her folding books broadly entitled Imageries. These books consist of classic fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen. These were also done as accordion folded books with stories told using symbols rather than written language.



  • William Tell, New York : Junior Council, Museum of Modern Art, 1962 (OCLC )
  • Sunday Harlem Faith Temple gospel songs : Vorzingen einer Gruppe Handeklatschen Mitzprechers mitzingen Extatisches Himwerfen ohnmacht Tanzen, 1964? (OCLC )
  • Das hässliche junge Entlein (The ugly duckling), Basil : Basilius Presse, 1965 (OCLC ).
  • Homo Sapiens ?, Basel, Switzerland : Basilius Presse, ©1965 (OCLC ).
  • Walk, dont walk, attendez, gehe, dont walk, passez, warte, walk, dont, Basel : Basilius Presse, ©1965 (OCLC ).
  • Das Feuer und seine Höhlen (The fire and its caves), Basil : Basilius-Presse, 1967 (OCLC )
  • Ramalalup, Basil : Basilius Presse, 1967 (OCLC )
  • Le non-obéissant. The disobedient. Der Ungehorsame, Basil : Basilius Presse, 1968 (OCLC )
  • Imageries, (Perrault, Charles,; 1628-1703) Paris : A. Maeght, 1965-1982 (OCLC )

Retelling of 6 fairy tales by Charles Perrault in coded images and colors. Each volume is an accordion-fold, printed on one side, individually encased in lucite, all volumes in box slipcase.

(v. 1). Le Petit Poucet -- (v. 2). Blanche Neige -- (v. 3). Le Petit Chaperon Rouge -- (v. 4). La fable du Hasard -- (v. 5). La Belle au Bois dormant -- (v. 6). Cendrillon.

Also published individually:

* Le Petit Poucet, Paris : A. Maeght, 1979 (OCLC )
* Blanche Neige, Paris : A. Maeght, 1974 (OCLC )
* Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, Paris : A. Maeght, 1965 (OCLC )
* La fable du Hasard, Paris : A. Maeght, 1968 (OCLC )
* La Belle au Bois dormant, Paris : A. Maeght, 1982 (OCLC ))
* Cendrillon, Paris : A. Maeght, 1976 (OCLC )

  • Die Rose und der Laubfrosch: eine Fabel (The Rose and the Tree frog: a Fable), Zurich : Edition Schlegl, 1978 (OCLC )
  • Leporello, Paris : [W. Lavater?], ©1982 (OCLC )
  • Ergo : un pictogram sur les conséquences de "Je pense donc je suis", Paris : Adrien Maeght, ©1988 (OCLC )
  • Spectacle: un conte, Paris : A. Maeght, 1990 (OCLC )
  • Tanabata, Paris : A. Maeght, 1994 (OCLC )
  • Pictograms, Zurich : Nieves, 2008 (ISBN 978-3-905714-24-1)


  • Les Imageries, 6 digital animation films, Paris : IRCAM, 1995

*Design : Warja Lavater based on the work of Charles Perrault
*Graphics Production : Mac Guff Ligne
*Composer : Pierre Charvet


  • Liedli für Mutter und Kind für eine Singstimme und Klavier (co-composed with Gustav Kugler), Zollikon-Zürich :; Sämann-Verlag, 1944 (OCLC )


  • Imagina 1995 (held by Institut National de l'Audiovisuel) awards for Les Imageries (video 1995)
    • Pixel-INA award in the Art category
    • European award of Media Invest Club
    • "meilleure bande son" (best sound track)



  • Biography (French Language)
  • Bibliography, exhibitions, and Biography (German Language) via SIKART
  • Biography (German Language) via Galerie Brigitte Weiss
  • Beckett, Sandra L. "Artists' books for a cross-audience - Warja Lavater" IN Studies in children's literature, 1500-2000, Dublin ; Portland, OR : Four Courts, 2004, pp. 163-166 (OCLC )
  • Carmin, Jim. " Warja Honegger-Lavater exhibition (Multnomah County Library)" IN BOOK_ARTS@LISTERV.SYR.EDU, Portland, OR, May 12, 2001
  • Kushner, Robert. "Review of Exhibitions - Warja Lavater at the Swiss Institute" IN Art in America vol. 85, no. 4 (April 1997), p. 122
  • Lavater, Warja. "Perception: When Signs Start to Communicate" IN The Faces of physiognomy : interdisciplinary approaches to Johann Caspar Lavater. Edited by Ellis Shookman. Columbia, SC : Camden House, 1993. pp. 182-187. (OCLC )
  • Moholy, Lucia. "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions - Switzerland" IN Burlington Magazine vol. 105, no. 719 (February 1963), p. 85
  • Swiss Institute for Art Research (search for Artist: Lavater)
  • IRCAM (search for single term: Lavater)
  • Plath, Monika and Richter, Karen. Die Bildwelten der Warja Lavater "Schneewittchen" : Modelle und Materialien für den Literaturunterricht. Baltmannsweiler : Schneider-Verl. Hohengehren, 2006. (OCLC )

External links


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