James Joyce to August Suter – from writer to sculptor
It was at August Suter’s invitation that Frank Budgen moved to Switzerland shortly before the beginning of WW I. They had met at the famous Académie Julian in Paris, and Budgen worked as a model for the promising young Swiss artist who had exclusively turned to sculpture at the advice of the sculptor Rodo (Auguste de Niederhäusern).
Joyce’s acquaintance with Budgen in wartime Zurich brought him into contact with a close circle of friends that included August Suter, his brother Paul, and the Basel poet Siegfried Lang. Suter’s contacts in Ascona also provided Joyce with access to the Mistress of the Isola de Brisago, Antoinette de Saint Léger, whose Circean touch and stash of erotic literature made a contribution to the Circe episode.1
(Above) Fragment of Joyce's letter of 4 June 1924
(Left) August Suter in 1937 working on a bust of Professor Doerr, Basel. The bust in profile shows painter Numa Donzé (1885-1952). In the background there is an oil portrait of Frank Budgen.
After the war Suter went back to his Paris studio, and when Joyce settled in the French capital to finish Ulysses in the summer of 1921 acquaintance was renewed. Joyce eventually sat for a bust, whose unburnt clay model, unfortunately, did not survive WW II. Both, Suter and Joyce, had to leave France again for Zurich in 1939, this time to flee from the Nazi regime. In January 1941 August Suter was the only member of the old Zurich circle of friends who was able to attend Joyce’s funeral.
Fifty years after the death of the sculptor in November 1965, his grandsons have generously provided access to the surviving documents James Joyce sent to August Suter and which were preserved by his only surviving son, Claude.
The documents span the period between February 1922 and an unknown date after November 1939 and are listed here in a sometimes tentative chronological order.
1 Document by August Suter for Dr. Dutli to be passed on to Richard Ellmann, in possession of the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.
2 August Suter, “Some Reminiscences of James Joyce” in: James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Spring, 1970), pp. 191-8. Suter's German text was translated into English and annotated by Fritz Senn. The German original is in the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.