Skip to main content

Cuno Amiet - Stillleben mit Zitronen, 1908


Cuno Amiet - Stillleben mit Zitronen, 1908
Oil on canvas
55 x 60 cm

During his stay in Pont-Aven (1892-1893), Cuno Amiet found himself in the midst of avant-garde artistic circles, which encouraged him to experiment with new ways of depiction. He broke with academic tone painting and began to paint with pure colours in the Neo-Impressionist manner. On his return to the predominantly conservative-minded Switzerland, his new painting style initially met with criticism. Nevertheless, he remained devoted to his found form of artistic expression and was thus able to keep up with the European avant-garde movements.

In the Neo-Impressionist painting "Stillleben mit Zitronen", the pictorial effect is determined by a free use of colour and form as well as a dissolution of traditional perspective. A plate with two lemons is presented on a table board whose surface is shaped with a coarse blue brushstroke. A mask-like doll's head peeps out from behind a bulge in the blue tablecloth. Behind it a draped orange textile piles up, forming the centre of the picture and a wicker armchair with a green cushion represents the flat, indistinct background.
As in many pictures, Amiet relies in this still life on the effect of complementary contrasts: here, vibrant yellow tones contrast with a bright blue, and a darker orange with a harmonious shade of green.

About artist
Cuno Amiet
Solothurn, CH, 1886 — 1961

Cuno Amiet (1868, Solothurn – 1961, Oschwand) was the first Swiss artist to prioritize colour in composition and preceded the Modern art movement in Switzerland. After completing his first self-portrait at the age of 15, Amiet became Frank Buchser’s student in 1884. During the autumn of 1886, Amiet went to Munich and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1887 he met Giovanni Giacometti, who later became his lifelong friend, and the following year they travelled to Paris together where Amiet began further studies at the Académie Julian. However, following the year 1892 Amiet became increasingly dissatisfied with his academy classes and transferred to Pont-Aven where he discovered Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh and laid the foundations for his colourist painting.
In 1894, Amiet held an exhibition in the Kunsthalle Basel, where his use of overly saturated colours was largely rejected by art critics. Later, in 1898, he was commissioned to create a portrait of Ferdinand Hodler, the subsequent connection between the two artists led to Amiet’s increased interest in Art Nouveau.
In 1905, Amiet held an exhibition at the Galerie Richter in Dresden, where the artists’ group Die Brücke became aware of him. In 1906, Erich Heckel invited Amiet to become a member of the group giving him the opportunity to be part of the first Brücke exhibition, focused on the female nude, in Dresden.
In 1914, Amiet held a solo exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zurich with 124 works on display. In 1919, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern. Today Cuno Amiet is regarded as one of the most important pioneers of classical modernism in Switzerland.