Vorstadt-Gräfin (Elisabeth)

Switzerland, born 1908, date of death unknown

Elisabeth was born in 1908, the only daughter of an Italian bricklayer in the Swiss canton of Vaud. Little is known about her childhood and adolescence, except that in school she had to repeat a year.

She was still very young when she married a Vaudois vegetable farmer, who became an alcoholic; he suffered from delirium tremens and died in 1961 after fracturing his skull. In 1933 a son was born to the couple. Elisabeth loved working outdoors and growing vegetables. In 1955 the family had to sell their little house. The resulting move into the city deprived Elisabeth of everything she loved doing and she became severely depressed.

In 1956 her mental health deteriorated further and she was admitted for the first time to the psychiatric department of the University Hospital in Lausanne, suffering from hallucinations. After that she was readmitted frequently. She lost a lot of weight and from 1964 onwards she attended art workshops in the psychiatric department. The title “Countess of Suburbia” was coined by Elisabeth herself. Key motifs in her drawings are people, animals, good and evil, love and sorrow. Her artworks reflect the difficulties of a humble woman’s life, but also convey her desire for strength and power.

Alfred Bader, the former medical director at the psychiatric department of the University Hospital in Lausanne, included a chapter on the “Countess of Suburbia” in a book on delusions and reality that he and Leo Navratil compiled together – “Zwischen Wahn und Wirklichkeit” (Verlag C.J. Bucher, Lucerne, Frankfurt/M., 1976, S. 255-260).

In 1970, sunk in intense depression, Elisabeth stopped drawing. 

 

Selected works