Bernhard Luginbühl archive

Bernhard Luginbühl (1929–2011) is known for his monumental iron sculptures and his spectacular burning events. In private he dedicated himself to writing and to book design. In 2019, his heirs donated these artist's books and diaries to the Prints and Drawings Department at the Swiss National Library (NL).

Luginbühl: Bauer wohin
Bernhard Luginbühl, “Bauer wohin?”, Artist's book with various bindings and covers (photo: NL, Simon Schmid)
© Luginbühl community of heirs

Bernhard Luginbühl gained international recognition through his abstract iron sculptures, which he exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1964, and at the documenta in Kassel in 1964. His short film «Kleiner Emmentalfilm» (1970) and the burning of huge wooden sculptures caused a sensation in the 1970s. Less well-known are Luginbühl's works as an illustrator, graphic artist and book artist. His artist's books and diaries, which were kept locked away throughout his lifetime, have been preserved in the NL's Prints and Drawings Department since 2019. 

From the 1950s until his death, Luginbühl recorded his work and thoughts by hand in a series of diaries that are unique in both form and content. Through dense writing full of imagery, interwoven with exuberant illustrations and expressive collages, he processed events in his own life and what was happening in the world. His literary work also comprises other books containing prose and text fragments, artistically-designed notebooks and volumes of poetry. Each hand-made piece in the collection allows us to explore the book as object.  

The artist’s books and diaries provide an insight into Luginbühl's extensive artistic practice. The correspondence, which is also preserved at the NL, highlights the creative processes involved in Luginbühl's sculptures and visual works, and his links to artists such as Jean Tinguely, Daniel Spoerri, Eva Aeppli, Dieter Roth and Niki de Saint Phalle. It also constitutes a significant and previously unknown source on the creation of artist's books in Switzerland. 

Content and scope

  • Unique artist's books: diaries, books containing prose and text fragments, notebooks, volumes of poetry, book objects
  • Drafts on published artist's books
  • Drafts for catalogues and press
  • Documents on dramatic works
  • Sketches and designs for sculptures
  • Correspondence from and to Bernhard Luginbühl and his family
  • Personal documents, including diaries and address books

Research and access

  • The Bernhard Luginbühl archive is described and catalogued in detail in the HelveticArchives database.
  • Work photographs and correspondence in the archive of photographer Siegfried Kuhn provide additional insights into Luginbühl's work.
  • Further information on the archives of Bernhard Luginbühl and Siegfried Kuhn available on request
  • Originals can be consulted on site (by appointment)

Last modification 15.06.2023

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