Karl Walser


Books, book covers, illustrations, interior design, set design, costumes. Swiss-German. Born 8 April 1877 in Biel, Switzerland. 1896-7: studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule, Strassburg; friendship with E.R. Weiss. From 1901: illustrated books for the publisher Bruno Cassirer, including Sassa yo Yassa, Japanische Tänze and Ein Spaziergang in Japan. 1903: member of the Berlin Secession. From 1905: designed for the theatre: particularly opera productions in Berlin. c1902-c1920: designed book covers and illustrated books by his poet-brother Robert (1878-1956); designed for the Berlin publishers Reiss, Kurt Wolff, Cassirer, and others. 1905-43: painted numerous wall-paintings. From 1911: taught printmaking at the Berlin Kunstakademie. By 1913: his reputation as a set- and costume-designer warranted a book of his designs. 1925: returned to Switzerland where he remained until his death on 28 September 1943 in Bern, Switzerland.

Writings about

  • Oskar Bie, Das Theater. Bühnenbilder und Kostüme von Karl Walser, Berlin: Cassirer, 1913
  • Waldemar George, Quelques Artistes Suisses, Paris: Éditions ‘Le Triangle’, 1928 (paintings)
  • Arthur Rümann, ‘Die deutsche Buchillustration’, Imprimatur, 1939/40, pp. 129-44
  • Curt Tillmann, ‘Die Entwicklung des Buchumschlages’ (bookjackets), Imprimatur, 1939/40, pp. 145-59
  • Vollmer, 1961 (bibliography)
  • GKS, 1963, p. 212
  • Robert und Karl Walser (exh. cat.), Zurich: Kunsthaus, 1978 (lists all illustrated books, theatre productions, wall paintings, exhibitions)
  • Claire Badorrek-Hoguth, Der Buchkünstler Karl Walser, eine Bibliographie, Bad Kissingen: Badorrek, 1983 (comprehensive references)
  • Bernhard Echte and Andreas Meier, Die Brüder Karl und Robert Walser. Maler und Dichter, Stäfa: Rothenhäusler, 1990 (excellent chronology)
  • Goethe-Gedichte illustriert, Rome: Casa di Goethe, 2000
  • Benezit, 2006 (includes auction records, 1973-2004).


  • Kunstmuseum, Winterthur, 1940
  • Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1978
  • Casa di Goethe, Rome, 2000.


  • Robert Walser Archiv, Carl Seelig Stiftung, Zurich
  • Museum Neuhaus, Biel
  • Klingspor Museum, Frankfurt a.M.