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Cuno Amiet


Amiet’s interest in portrait painting is reflected in the various styles that he experiments with in his compositions. Henceforth, Amiet does not only portray his models in traditional postures but also in allegorical representations. His portraits differ in their claim to realistic depiction and thus, in their level of abstraction.

Cuno Amiet «Frau mit rotem Hut (Emmy)», 1893, WVZ-Nr.: 1893.02, private collection Switzerland, © D. Thalmann, Aarau

While the portrait Frau mit rotem Hut (Woman with red hat), painted in Amiet’s early period in 1893, alludes to a posed studio scene, in which the portrayed woman patiently models wearing festive clothing – the portrait Weib (woman) painted in 1904 represents a much more unconventional manner of portraying. The woman’s anonymity points out to an imaginary person without any reference to an existing model; the entire composition seems to be fictional. Though, other portraits suggest a spontanous depiction of the person and thus, a more casual image of everyday life.

Cuno Amiet «Das Weib», 1904, WVZ-Nr.: 1904.09, private collection Switzerland,, © D. Thalmann, Aarau

Furthermore, in some paintings the portrayed person is highlighted in comparison with the background; their detailed facial features differ from the often monochrome and unelaborated image background. In contrast to those paintings there are different canvases, in which the entire painting is painted with a similar brush style. In addition, Amiet often applies similar colour shadings for the entire work and therefore intensifies the impression that facial traits of the model blend in with the picture’s background.

Cuno Amiet «Bildnis Juliette Trüssel», 1921, WVZ-Nr.: 1921.19, Privatsammlung Schweiz, © D. Thalmann, Aarau

Cuno Amiet «Der Cellospieler (Hans Münch)», 1916, WVZ-Nr.: 1916.02, Privatsammlung Schweiz, © D. Thalmann, Aarau

Most of the image titles indicate that the models where well known to Amiet. Faces of family and friends were equally perpetuated in Amiet's paintings – Amiet’s portrait paintings can be read as a visual guest book of the people that frequented Amiet at Oschwand.

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.