Swiss Early Arts

Swiss art, term for art in the field of Switzerland.

A general overview of Swiss art shows, apart from many peculiarities and interrelationships, art in the Alemannic area as closely related to Alsatian and Swabian art, that of the Engadine with art in Tyrol, that of Italian-speaking Switzerland with Lombardy, that of the French cantons with Provencal, Savoyard and Burgundian art.

Middle Ages

Switzerland has many architectural and artistic monuments from the early Middle Ages and Carolingian times: the octagonal baptistery of Riva San Vitale, the church foundations secured by excavations and the church treasure of Saint Maurice, the Benedictine convent church of Saint John in Müstair in the Münstertal with the most important surviving cycle of Carolingian wall paintings, the church in Zillis-Reischen with the oldest Romanesque painted ceiling and the manuscripts of the St. Gallen Abbey Library and the St. Gallen monastery plan from around 830. The excavated floor plans under the cathedrals of Chur and Lausanne and under the ministers of Zurich and Basel provide information about the diversity of Carolingian church architecture. The churches of Spiez and Romainmôtier were built around 1000, in Romanesque times the church of Payerne, All Saints’ Day in Schaffhausen and many chapels in Graubünden and Ticino. The Basel Minster, a major work of the Upper Rhine-Alsatian Romanesque, illustrates with its capitals the wealth of motifs from the beginning of the 13th century.

The cathedrals of Lausanne (the earliest parts completed in 1190) and Geneva are built in the Burgundian Gothic style. The churches of Chur and Sitten stand out due to their location and furnishings. The Manessian manuscript from Zurich and the Königsfelden and Kappel churches with their stained glass come from the High Gothic period, the Bern Minster and many, mostly Swabian carved altars, the most beautiful in Chur and Münster (Canton Valais), from the late Gothic period.

The bourgeois culture of the free cities, which emerged around 1500 and where handicrafts flourished (goldsmithing, carpentry, carpet weaving, the so-called Basler Heidnischwerke), was typically Swiss. K. Witz from Rottweil and H. Holbein the Younger from Augsburg worked in Basel. The splendor and savagery of the Burgundian and Milan Wars were reflected in the illustrated chronicles by Diebold Schilling the Elder († 1485) and the Younger (* around 1460, † around 1520) as well as the paintings and drawings by H. Fries, N. Manuel, U Graf and H. Leu the Younger. H. Asper stepped up as a portrait painteremerged. Characteristic for Switzerland are also the regionally different farmhouses and the richly furnished town houses. Cabinet panes (Swiss panes) were a bourgeois special type of glass painting.

Renaissance and Baroque

The Renaissance found its way into Swiss art early on, especially in Basel and Lucerne, in Ticino with San Lorenzo in Lugano (facade 1517). The most important preserved monument of facade painting north of the Alps is the Haus zum Ritter in Schaffhausen by T. Stimmer. Jost Ammann (* 1539, † 1591), Christoph Murer (* 1558, † 1614) and Daniel Lindtmayer (* 1552, † before 1607) contributed to the heyday of the graphic arts in the late Renaissance and thus established a tradition that began in the 17th century. Century among others found a continuation with the family of the well-known topographer M. Merian the Elder. As a result, numerous Swiss artists worked at European royal courts, including J. Heintz, Johann Rudolf Bys (* 1662, † 1738) in Prague, Georg Gsell (* 1673, † 1740) in Saint Petersburg.

Only the Catholic cantons have rich baroque buildings, mostly created by Vorarlberg masters such as K. Moosbrugger (e.g. in Lucerne, Solothurn, Muri, Rheinau, Sankt Katharinental bei Diessenhofen, Einsiedeln and Sankt Gallen). Among the Protestant church buildings stands v. a. the Heiliggeistkirche in Bern emerged. Many of Italy’s great builders come from Ticino, such as D. and C. Fontana, C. Maderna and F. Borromini; Many architects, sculptors and plasterers working in Germany, Poland and Russia came from there and from Graubünden. B. the master builder families Viscardi and Zuccalli. The Ticino painters G. Serodine and P. F. Mola worked in Italyand G. A. Petrini. In the Baroque and Late Baroque periods, Samuel Hofmann (* 1595, † 1649), Johann Rudolf Huber (* 1668, † 1748) and Emanuel Handmann (* 1718, † 1781) created important works of portrait art. The ore caster J. B. Keller, who worked for Louis XIV, came from Zurich. French influence prevailed in the 18th century: Johann Carl Hedlinger (* 1691, † 1771) worked as a medalist at European courts. The portraitist and church painter Johann Melchior Wyrsch (* 1732, † 1798) was a co-founder of the Art Academy in Besançon.

The most famous painters are the portraitists J.-É. Liotard and A. Graff, active as teachers at the Art Academy in Dresden, as well as J. H. Füssli, whose fantastic history painting combines elements of classicism and early romanticism. From 1764 he lived mainly in London. Angelika Kauffmann, born in Chur, was celebrated as a portraitist and history painter in Rome and London. The sculptor A. Trippel, who created not only portrait busts but also important tombs, was a pioneer of German classicism. Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours (* 1752, † 1809) championed the ideals of the French Revolution in his history paintings.

19th century

The Swiss minor masters Gabriel Lory (* 1763, † 1840) and his son Mathias-Gabriel Lory (* 1784, † 1846) and Franz Friedrich Freudenberger (* 1804) made important contributions to Romanticism, which is already being prepared in L. Aberli’s works , † 1862) with colored landscape and traditional costume etchings and watercolors. The Geneva painters J.-L. Agasse, C. Gleyre, L. Robert and the Parisian sculptor J. Pradier. Folk scenes depicted W. A. ​​Toepffer in Geneva, the father of the humorous draftsman and writer R. Toepffer, and the Bernese A. Anchor. The Genevans F. Diday and A. Calame often gave their high mountain pictures a poetically sublime atmosphere, which in C. Wolf’s monumental alpinepictures, which were created in the 18th century, is combined with the pursuit of a documentary accurate representation. In the 19th century the animal painter R. Koller, the world traveler and art politician Frank Buchser (* 1828, † 1890) and the landscape painters R. Zünd, B. Menn and A. Stäbli (active in Munich) also emerged. K. Stauffer-Bern became v. a. known as a portrait painter and eraser. The transition from late romanticism to symbolism was made by A. Böcklin and A. Welti. E. Kreidolf illustrated children’s books. The Italian pathetic verism represented the painter Antonio Ciseri (* 1821, † 1891) and the sculptor V. Vela. In the last five years of his life in the Engadine, G. Segantini, who was born in South Tyrol, created an oeuvre whose importance was long underestimated.

Swiss Early Arts

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