The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Cuno Amiet, the Master of Colour

It has been 150 years since the birth of one of the greatest Swiss artists, Cuno Amiet (1868-1961). He was a painter, illustrator, graphic artist and sculptor. As the first Swiss painter to give precedence to colour in composition, he was a pioneer of modern art in Switzerland.

Amiet was born in the town of Solothum in northwestern Switzerland. His father was the chancellor of the canton of the same name. After graduating secondary school in his hometown, he attended the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. He continued his studies in Paris with Giovanni Giacometti, another contemporary Swiss painter, whom he befriended in Munich.

In 1892 Amiet joined the Pont-Aven School, where he started using pure colour instead of tonal painting. Upon returning to Switzerland the following year, he set up a studio in Hellsau, and had the first exhibitions in Basel in 1894. He started to build a name for himself with the solo shows toward the end of the century.

In 1898 he got married and moved to a house in Oschwand, which became a meeting place for various artists and writers, including Herman Hesse. He also taught art for many decades.

Amiet produced more than 4,000 paintings, of which more than 1,000 are self-portraits. His tendency toward experimentation makes his oeuvre disparate, but in all of them he retains a sense of harmony of colour grounded in the French tradition. Late in his life he focused on more abstract concepts of space and light, characterised by dots of colour and a pastel brilliance.

He died in Oschwald in 1961 at the age of 93.

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