Friday, December 12, 2014

Anker, Albert

Girl Peeling Potatoes
oil on canvas
size unknown
private collection

"One has to shape an ideal in one's imagination, and then one has to make that ideal accessible to the people." (Anker)

Albert Samuel Anker (1831-1910) was a Swiss painter who has been called the "national painter" of Switzerland because of his enduringly popular depictions of 19th-century Swiss ordinary village life. His meticulous paintings of Swiss rural life endeared him to the public and during his heydays, he was considered as the most popular artist.

His works captured the daily and social life of the rustics in the picturesque villages of Switzerland. His paintings depict his fellow citizens in an unpretentious and plain manner, without idealizing country life, but also without the critical examination of social conditions. He portrayed the social life of villagers as plain and unpretentious. He depicted men and women without any judgment or idealizing their social condition. Though he had a Christian world-view, he did not, in any way, impose his ideology on his paintings.

Anker was quick to reach his artistic objectives and never strayed from his chosen path. His works, though, exude a sense of conciliation and understanding as well as a calm trust in Swiss democracy; they are executed with great skill, providing brilliance to everyday scenes through subtle choices in coloring and lighting.

He was born in Ins, his father was a veterinarian. Despite a brief foray into the study of theology, he convinced his father to let him pursue a career in art. He then moved to Paris where he studied at the Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts from 1855-60.  In 1864, he married and had six children, two of whom died very early in life. He depicted his surviving children in some of his paintings. He died in 1910 at the age of 79 at his house in Anet, Switzerland. His studio in Ins has been preserved as a museum by the Albert Anker Foundation. Many Swiss postage stamps and other media have incorporated Anker's work.