National Museum of Women in the Arts
Charmion von Wiegand
March 04 1896 - June 09 1983
Photograph of Charmion von Wiegand, unknown date, by Stella Snead, courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY, USA
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
SHAHR-mee-ehn vahn VEE-ghend
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Artistic Role(s):
Collagist, Painter, Self-taught Artist
Artist's Biography:
Charmion von Wiegand was born in Chicago in 1896. She spent her childhood moving with her family around the United States in order to accommodate her father’s demanding journalism career. In 1911, von Wiegand moved to Berlin where her father worked as the head of United Press’s Berlin office. Encouraged by her father to study journalism, von Wiegand enrolled at Barnard College in New York in 1915. From 1916 to 1920, she attended Columbia University where she continued her studies in journalism but also became interested in art history.

After graduating, von Wiegand married and moved to Dorien, Connecticut where she quickly grew dissatisfied with her lifestyle as a wealthy housewife. In 1925, during a series of psychoanalytical therapy sessions, she realized that she wanted to become a painter. She quickly overcame her fear that it was already too late in life to pursue her aspiration to be an artist and taught herself to paint. Recalling her study of art history, she was influenced by the Expressionists in her early figurative works. Her husband divorced her the same year and moved to Germany. He set up a studio for her in Greenwich Village in New York, and despite their separation, they remained close friends.

In New York, von Wiegand began painting more seriously, however journalism remained her primary career. In 1929, she traveled to Moscow where she was the night correspondent for Heart Press and spent her weekends painting Russian churches. During the 1930s, she returned to New York and began writing art reviews for various publications. In 1941, her friend Carl Holty introduced her to abstract artist Piet Mondrian. They soon developed a close friendship and von Wiegand spent much of her time translating his writings from Dutch to English. Through their discussions she became interested in Neo-Plasticism and began painting more abstractly.

During the 1940s, von Wiegand became increasingly interested in Theosophy and Tibetan Buddhism and began experimenting with automatic drawing. She exhibited her first works at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery in New York and began making abstract collages. From 1952 to 1954, she served as president of the American Abstract Artists.

Her interest in Eastern religions continued to develop and in 1967 von Wiegand befriended Tibetan refugee and Buddhist monk Khongla Rato. During the 1970s, she traveled to India and Tibet where she continued to be inspired by geometric symbolism in spiritual texts. In 1983 after a varied life as an artist, journalist, and activist, von Wiegand died in New York.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Editor, Journalist, Traveler, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA (1916 - ca.1920) Barnard College, New York, NY, USA (1915)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of Piet Mondrian friend of Joseph Stella friend of Jules Pascin friend of Carl Holty
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award, Women's Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (1982) Hassam and Speicher Fund Purchase Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, USA (1980) President, American Abstract Artists, New York, NY, USA (1952-1954)
Earliest exhibition:
The Women, Art of This Century Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1945)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Artist retrospective(s):
Retrospective Exhibition 1945-1965, Marilyn Pearl Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1985) Charmion Von Wiegand: Her Art and Her Life, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL, USA (1982)
Related places
New York (died at)
Advancing Magic Squares
Untitled (Cat in Window)