Marianne von Werefkin (1860, Tula - 1936, Ascona) created her first Expressionist paintings in 1907 and later became a member of the artists' group Blauer Reiter. She moved in the most important artistic circles in Europe and exerted a strong influence on the development of various painting styles of her time.
From 1918, Werefkin lived in Ascona, where she actively supported the local artists. There she intensified her poetic visual language, which in general became more narrative and enigmatic. Romanticism, symbolism, and spirituality formed the basis of her artistic style, with which she expressed her inner landscapes. Vibrant colours and forms, combined with symbolist elements, reflect a wealth of emotions with a dominant pathos. In addition, Werefkin wanted to convey ethical values through her art and thus combined socially critical statements with lyrical expressionism.
The harsh social and familial conditions under which Ignaz Epper (1892, St. Gallen - 1969, Ascona) grew up formed the basis for the motifs in his works. Restlessness, violence, fear, and the turmoil of the war years were captured by Epper in an artistically expressive form, especially in his woodcuts and chalk drawings. His style is characterised by a simplifying, distorting formal language. Multiple angular lines sketch the human bodies in a scaffold-like manner and span the space in a dynamic perspective.
In 1932 Epper moved from Zurich to Ascona. The change of location also marks a turning point in his oeuvre. His works, which he now increasingly produced in oils and watercolours, became thematically and stylistically calmer. While Epper's early work was dominated by a socially critical Expressionism, his style became more lyrical and meditative in Ascona. The colours and forms turned softer and there was a focus on the Ticino landscape, as can also be found in Werefkin's work.
Johann Robert Schürch (1895, Aarau - 1941, Ascona) lost his father and his two sisters at an early age, which is why he developed a close relationship with his mother. In 1922 he withdrew with her to Monti near Locarno for almost ten years, where they lived largely isolated and in poverty. It was during this time that he found his own expressive style, which he mainly realised in pen and ink drawings. In 1934, Schürch went to Ascona and joined the local artistic circles around Werefkin.
The source of Schürch's inspiration was literary realism, through which he found the protagonists for his pessimistic, visionary-grotesque visual world. As a result, he created crude portraits stylistically close to Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), but also surrealistic fantasy scenes. A socially critical tone always resonates in his works, pointing out to the grievances of the time.