Greta Knutson

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Greta Knutson or Knutson-Tzara (also known as Greta Knutson; 1899–1983) was a Swedish modernist visual artist, art critic, short story writer and poet. A student of André Lhote who adopted Abstraction, Cubism and Surrealism, she was also noted for her interest in phenomenology. Knutson was married to Romanian-born author and co-founder of Dadaism Tristan Tzara, but they later divorced.


Born in Stockholm, Greta Knutson studied at the Kungliga Konsthögskolan, and settled in Paris, France during the early 1920s.[1] It was there that she began frequenting Lhote's studio and became his disciple.[1] It was also in France that Knutson met Tzara, reportedly in 1924.[2] She married him on August 8, 1925.[3] The couple had a son, Christophe, born on March 15, 1927 at Neuilly-sur-Seine.[3]

With funds from her inheritance, Tzara built the family residence in Montmartre, commissioned to architect Adolf Loos (a former figure of the Modernist Movement in Vienna).[3] She partly modified the structure to accommodate her personal studio, which Loos had omitted in his original design.[3]

Knutson adopted Surrealism during the 1930s.[1] She and Tristan Tzara however parted in 1937[4] (they were pronounced divorced on October 25, 1942).[3] She also broke with Surrealism, pursuing her interest in phenomenology, and in particular in philosophers Edmund Husserl[1] and Martin Heidegger.[4] During the late 1930s, she painted a portrait of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti; she later recounted that her model confessed to her that his borrowings from African art, although discussed by critics, were only coincidental, and had to do with the fact that primitivism was in fashion.[5]

Knutson was a productive writer, publishing essays of art criticism, and, only sporadically, poems.[1] Late in her life, she also authored novellas and prose poetry fragments.[2] Together with poet Gunnar Ekelöf, she translated works of Swedish literature into French,[2] but her own poetry was never issued as a volume during her lifetime.[1]


Greta Knutson's French-language poems were translated into Swedish by poet Lasse Söderberg, and, together with her husband, she was the subject of a study by art historian Cecilia Sjöholm.[2] Söderberg, Sjöholm, actor Christian Fex and writer Jonas Ellerström took part in the Madame Tzara? event, held at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm during October 2007.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Greta Knutson", in Penelope Rosemont, Surrealist Women, Continuum International Publishing Group, London & New York, 1998, p.69. ISBN 0-485-30088-5
  2. ^ a b c d e (in Romanian) Madame Tzara? Greta Knutson şi Tristan Tzara (October 3, 2007), at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm; retrieved May 2, 2008
  3. ^ a b c d e (in French) Jacques-Yves Conrad, Promenade surréaliste sur la colline de Montmartre Archived 2008-09-15 at the Wayback Machine., at the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle Center for the Study of Surrealism Archived 2008-03-27 at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved May 2, 2008
  4. ^ a b Daniele Leclair, René Char. Là où brûle la poésie, Edition Aden, Paris, 2007, p.108-110. ISBN 978-2-84840-091-4
  5. ^ Rosalind E. Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1985, p.85. ISBN 0-262-61046-9

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