Iconic Swiss painter gets big centenary show
By Robert Evans
BERN (Reuters Life!) - A gaggle of lively children, some barefoot, take a nature walk with their young teacher; a downcast farmer counts coins from his purse to pay a tax debt; a dozing old man cradles his sleeping grand-daughter on his lap.
These are some of the iconic scenes of late 19th century life captured by an artist little known outside his homeland that can be seen in reproduction today in homes and offices across the modern Switzerland of technology and high finance.
They are also key works in a major exhibition, "Beautiful World," at the Bern Fine Arts Museum marking the centenary of the 1910 death at the age of 79 of Albert Anker, often described as the "national artist."
"For us, I think, Anker offers a view of a society that has in many ways gone forever but which we don't want to forget," says Therese Bhattacharya-Stettler, curator of the show that is drawing visitors from all over the country.
Children and childhood in a small provincial town, and their relationship with the older people around them, are at the focus of the exhibition.
"Anker saw children as little personalities in their own right, quite outside their own class, age or gender," says Stettler who has spent years studying his work.
Among the most striking paintings on display are an 1867 full-figure portrait of his blonde daughter Louise, aged 3, clutching a doll, and his son Rudi, aged 2, lying on his deathbed in 1869, a work exuding calm but also high emotion. Continued...