Siri Meyer was an artist. She worked in several fields and belonged to the international avant-garde during the 1920s.
Siri Meyer was born in 1895 in the Gothenburg Jewish congregation, one of seven children. Her mother was German-born Regina Jaffé and her father was Robert Adolf Meyer, a businessman. She was the great-grandchild of Moritz Adolph Meyer, an illustrator and lithographer, an immigrant from Copenhagen. Her grandfather, Ludvig Adolph Meyer, a master craftsman in the furnishings and interior decoration branch, participated in the interior decoration of the new Stock Exchange in Gothenburg in the 1840s.
Siri Meyer’s artistic heritage showed itself at an early age. She drew diligently and her mother encouraged her. Siri Meyer started at the arts and crafts school Slöjdföreningens skola, currently HDK-Valand – Academy of Art and Design, and participated in the lessons there for two terms before being accepted at the art school in Stockholm, Tekniska skolan (currently Konstfack –University of Arts, Crafts and Design) in the autumn of 1918. Since she was skilled at drawing, she was moved up a year. She also participated in tuition at Konstakademien, currently Konsthögskolan, but did not complete the course. At the end of 1920, she opened an atelier for hand-printed silk, with Birgit Afzelius and Brita Blumenthal. The same year, Siri Meyer met the Norwegian Elsa Lystad at Konstakademien. The meeting led to their life-long friendship. Elsa Lystad travelled to Munich in 1921 to meet the ideas of the new epoch. Siri Meyer followed after her the year after and became a student at one of the first painting schools for modern art, Hans Hofmann Schule für Bildende Kunst. The friends lived at a boarding house and socialised with Scandinavian artists, among them the Dane Francisca Clausen. Siri Meyer was impressed by German expressionism, both the abstract and the figurative.
The Swedish artist Eric Grate was also in Munich and saw Siri Meyer’s debut with acts and caricatures in a collective exhibition with among others Paul Klee and Georg Grosz at the avant-garde Galerie Neue Kunst — Hans Goltz. It was mainly a suite of Klee-inspired paintings that interested him. One such painting is the little watercolour Composition from 1922. It is both abstract and figurative. The triangular forms in the painting are surrounded by lines and in this geometrical mountain landscape rests a naked woman, drawn in ink. Siri Meyer also exhibited caricatures, that led to her collaboration in the German cultural magazine Der Querschnitt.
At the beginning of 1924, Siri Meyer and Elsa Lystad travelled to Paris. They shared an atelier and rooms, and started at the Académie Moderne, also participating in Ferdinand Léger’s afternoon tuition. In 1926—1927, Siri Meyer attended the Académie Scandinave Maison Watteau with Otte Sköld as her teacher. It was the tuition by Sköld that influenced her most, artistically. She was attracted to the new realism.
Siri Meyer was a diligent exhibitor during the 1920s. She participated in collective exhibitions at the salons in Paris and Oslo, and also Exposition Internationale des Beaux-Arts De La Ville de Bordeaux in 1927. Her Swedish debut took place at the Swedish-French art gallery in Stockholm in 1928 with the exhibition Pariskamraterna. The reviews were benevolent but not ecstatic. Common to all the artists was a fresh and broadly realistic understanding of their motifs, the sovereignty of colour over form and freedom from all easily-won stylisation. Siri Meyer exhibited more than thirty works of which the majority were drawings from Majorca. She distinguished herself from the others through her precision of style. Her drawings from Majorca were described as needle-sharp and detailed accounts, and “… a couple of small paintings unite a somewhat precious nativism, a suggestive atmosphere and a refined colour scale”. One of the paintings was Teaterlogen that hangs today in Norrköping Konstmuseum.
In 1930, Siri Meyer moved to Berlin. The year after, she studied with the eminent advertisement artist Jupp Wiertz. During her studies, she carried out advertising assignments for the printers Meyer & Köster in Gothenburg, which gave her some income. Her mother supported her economically during her stays abroad, but ever since the period in Munich, she also composed wallpaper and carpet patterns that she sent to Sweden to be sold.
Siri Meyer was often out travelling, but with frequent visits home. Her main place of residence was for many years Majorca. She first visited the island in 1924 and became enchanted by the landscape. Siri Meyer painted there in gouache, watercolours and oils, and drew villages with austere house shapes and people at work, among other things. She spent the second world war in Gothenburg. During the 1950s, Siri Meyer travelled back and forth to Majorca before returning to her home town for good. She worked in advertising and via Birgit Afzelius-Wärnlöf, the then stage and décor director at Liseberg, she was given work as a décor painter. In 1948, she was given the assignment of designing the roller-coaster landscape at Liseberg. It was very influenced by the landscape in Majorca. Siri Meyer was also the scenographer for revue productions in Gothenburg: Folkan tur och retur in 1941, performed at Folkteatern and Ur askan i elden in 1942, for Nya Revyteatern. With Birgit Afzelius-Wärnlöf, she created the costumes for Karl Gerhard’s show Sol och vår.
After a long break from exhibitions, Siri Meyer exhibited in 1952 and 1953 at Gallerias Costas in Majorca, and with Rulle Abrahamsson in 1952, she exhibited forty or so works at the Lorensberg art salon in Gothenburg. Her motifs, executed in line drawings and watercolours, were from the South of France and Spain with many views from the village of Valldemosa on Majorca where she had lived. In one review, Siri Meyer’s easy, sensitive touch in her sketches was highlighted, and in a worked-through portrait study in black and red chalk, she had “worked up to the pregnant simplicity that is the secret of the art of drawing”.
The memorial exhibition in 1986 at Galleri Majnabbe in Gothenburg was composed by her niece, the artist Marianne Sterner. There Siri Meyer’s playful and humorous drawings, paintings from Majorca, summer-light paintings from the west coast island of Orust and many self-portraits, both drawn and painted, were exhibited. At the exhibition, illustrations from her diaries were also displayed, in which she satirically portrayed herself and others. Line drawings were once again established as being her great strength.
Works by Siri Meyer have been exhibited in many exhibitions on women in the Swedish avant-garde during recent decades. The first separate exhibition was held at Norrköping Konstmuseum in 2010. The acquisition of her works by museums happened after her death. The watercolour mentioned above, Composition, was purchased by Moderna Museet in 2012.
Siri Meyer died in 1985. She lies buried in the family grave at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Gothenburg.