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Wenger, Susanne (1915–2009) By Probst, Peter

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM930-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 21 May 2024, from


Susanne Wenger was an Austrian artist and an instrumental figure in the history of Nigerian modernism. Born on July 4, 1915 in the city of Graz, Austria, Wenger first attended the local School of Applied Arts before she moved to Vienna to continue her art education, first at the School of Graphic Design and then, from 1933 to 1935, at the Academy of Art. Like other students, Wenger’s interest was in contemporary post-secessionist movements. The few works remaining from Wenger’s Viennese phase exemplify different styles ranging from pencil studies of plants and animal bodies, executed with an almost photographic precision, to expressionistic and cubist paintings, to surrealist crayon drawings. After the war she moved from Vienna to Paris, where she met editor Ulli Beier (1922–2011). The encounter with Beier marked a profound and lasting shift in Wenger’s life. The two fell in love and decided to spend the next years in Nigeria, where he got a job as a lecturer at the University of Ibandan. What they thought would be an adventure became a confrontation with the colonial reality. The colonial curriculum had an exclusive focus on Western history and culture. Interaction between Nigerians and members of the British faculty hardly existed. While Beier reacted to the colonial reality by seeking refuge in the newly established extramural department, which allowed him to work outside the campus, Wenger’s response was more private and personal. After a severe illness, she embarked on a journey—both spiritual and artistic—which resulted in the so-called “Osogbo experiment.”

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Probst, Peter. Wenger, Susanne (1915–2009). Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor and Francis,

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