Elisar von Kupffer

Elisàr August Emanuel von Kupffer (1872 – 1942) was a Baltic German artist, anthologist, poet, historian, translator, and playwright. He used the pseudonym “Elisarion” for most of his writings.
From an early age he was in delicate health, having suffered through meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, scarlet fever and measles. However he was also a good student and at the age of nine he wrote his first play, Don Irsino

He wrote many books and plays in his adult life. In 1911, he and Von Mayer founded the publishing house Klaristische Verlag Akropolis in Munich and Von Kupffer published three major works: a play, Aino und Tio, Hymnen der heiligen Burg (Hymns of the Holy Castle) and Ein neuer Flug und eine heilige Burg (A New Flight and a Holy Castle). His work was also published and reviewed in the gay magazine Akademos, published by Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen. That same year, he and Von Meyer announced the creation of a “new religion”, Klarismus (Clarity), and established a community in Weimar. The following year he published a book on Klarismus called Der unbekannte Gott (The Unknown God). In 1913, the Brogi Gallery in Florence hosted his first art exhibition.

In 1915, with World War I in progress and growing animosity towards Germans, they left Italy and moved to Ticino, where Von Kupffer established himself as a painter and muralist in Locarno, Switzerland. They were granted Swiss citizenship in 1922. From 1925 to 1929 they transformed their villa in Minusio, near Lake Maggiore, into an opulent collection of art, the “Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion”. He was also a photographer, making photographic studies of boys for use in the creation of his paintings, but most of his works featured a youthful version of himself. The Klarist “Elisarion Community” was founded at Minusio in 1926. During the 1930s, the number of visitors increased, then sharply decreased; stopping altogether just before the onset of World War II.

As his health declined, he became reclusive and died on October 31, 1942. Since 1981 the “Sanctuarium Artis Elisarion” has been a Museum dedicated to Von Kupffer’s work. The villa was willed to the municipality of Minusio, and his ashes are interred inside, together with Von Meyer’s.

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