Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cuno Amiet

Garden in Oschwand
54 x 72.5 cm
oil on canvas
location unknown

Cuno Amiet (1868-1961) was a Swiss painter, illustrator, graphic artist and sculptor. As the first Swiss painter to give precedence to colour in composition, he was a pioneer of modern art in Switzerland. Although oil painting was his principal activity, he was a highly gifted watercolorist and printmaker. During the early 1920s he also turned his hand to sculpture and produced a group of expressive portrait busts in bronze and marble.

He was born in Solothurn, Switzerland, and was the son of the historian and chancellor of the canton of Solothurn. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts Munich in 1886?88, where he met his life-long friend Giovanni Giacometti. In 1889 he and Giacometti transferred to the Academie Julian in Paris. Dissatisfied with academic art, he joined the Pont-Aven School in 1892, where he learned from Emile Bernard, and others. In Pont-Aven, he came to prefer the use of pure colour to tonal painting. In 1893, his lack of funds forced him to return to Switzerland.

In the 1890s, he continued to collaborate with Giacometti and had only modest commercial success, until he was commissioned in 1898 to paint a portrait of Ferdinand Hodler, an artist 15 years his senior and accustomed to doing battle with critics and the public. From 1898 through 1903, he fell under Hodler's influence and sought a compromise between the color-rich, painterly manner of Pont-Aven and the strict draughtsmanship that Hodler had distilled from the German tradition. After his 1898 marriage to Anna Luder, a tavern keeper's daughter, he settled in Oschwand, where his house became a meeting place for artists and writers such as Samuel Singer, Hermann Hesse. He lived there until his death at the age of 93.

His fortunes improved greatly in the 1900s, when he began participating in numerous European expositions, winning a silver medal in the Exposition Universelle. By 1904 he arrived at a style that remarkably paralleled the achievement of the Fauve painters at the same time. Both the Fauves (Matisse, Derain, Dufy, Vlaminck, Braque) and Amiet, working independently, had developed the possibilities inherent in the Postimpressionist works of Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Berne in 1919. In the late 1920s and in the 1930s, he executed numerous wall paintings. He created more than 4,000 paintings, of which more than 1,000 are self-portraits. His numerous landscape paintings depict many winter scenes, gardens and fruit harvests. In 1931 over 50 of his paintings, including some early masterpieces, were destroyed in the fire that consumed the Glaspalast (crystal palace) in Munich that hosted many large art exhibitions and international trade fairs. The fire was later determined to be arson. He surmounted this blow with an intense activity.