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Walter von Gunten - Scherenschnitter Artist

In the 1990's R. A. Baumgart, wrote an article for the Journal (Wisconsin Newspaper) entitled: Scissors Art:  the Lace That Takes a Million Snips.  The subtitle was:  For Sheer Intricacy, It's Hard to Top the Delicate Folk Art of Long Ago Europe.  Baumgart's knowledge was helpful in creating this blog.

Scissor cutting art has been practiced in much of Europe for centuries, but the work has now faded.  It reached its peak about 200 years ago.  It was the people's art, and when done by the Germans and Swiss it is called scherenschnitte.  When accomplished by the these two groups, the work tends to be more delicate and more detailed in design.  Scherenschnitte was cut from single sheets of paper and pasted on a contrasting paper background.  Common subjects were fantasies of trees, elves or rural scenes.

"Bird in the Bushes"
Cut Black and Gold Paper on White Mat Board
Framed:  Approx. 20 X 16.5 Inches
Signed Lower Left:  Walter von Gunten
A Steady Hand and a Keen Eye:  Scherenschnitte is a demanding art form.  The work is incredibly detailed.  Long hours and exacting conditions are required.  Fine detail demands that cutting be done by natural light.  An average size cutting may require upward of one million well directed snips of the tiny scissors.  Patience isn't a virtue - it is a necessity.  One tiny slip of the scissors and a whole piece can be ruined.  The hand that guides the scissors must be the envy of any surgeon.

The ultimate in scherenschnitte is collage.  Few artist even attempted it.  As a result collages have become exceeding rare, and are a highly prized collector's item.  Collage is the combination of variously colored paper cut into the component parts making up one finished multicolored piece.
Some of the old European masters preferred to use designs requiring only a few colors of paper to minimize complexity in mounting.

Thousands of Pieces Precisely Cut, Fitted:  The floral design of "Bird in the Bushes," is typical of von Gunten's work.  In this example he uses black and gold paper.  Thousands of  small separate pieces were carefully cut and precisely fitted to blend the delicate finished effect.  Weeks must have been required to accomplish this piece with butterflies and spring worm.  There is a fly on the edge of this floral composition. 

Pencil Signature Example
Walter von Gunten, Swiss, born in 1930, learned his art by looking at 17th Century cutouts in books.  He first started his paper cutouts in his early twenties and arrived in the US in 1961.  In the 1960's and 70's he ends up in living in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, near Lake Winnebago, in an old frame house with north-facing light.  It is there that birds become his favorite subjects, as he enjoyed watching them eat the spiders below his windowsill.

He moves on to Arizona (of course).  His work has been exhibited in the US and Europe, including the International Folk Art Museum in 1963, and he is continuing to still exhibit in Europe, he had major show in 2012 and 2013.  In 2013, traveled from Arizona to participate in the show at 83.   


  1. I own a few of Walter's works. One is a large colorful piece that contains flowers and insects. My aunt was a friend & patron of his when he lived in Oshkosh.

  2. Thanks so much Don for your comments. I write this blog to feature artist who get lost due to time or style changes. Walter's work is amazingly detailed. Thanks again for sharing.


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