City or countryside? Exhibition of Fred Stauffer in Saanen

Fri, 28. May. 2021

The exhibition The Other Fred Stauffer at the Museum der Landschaft Saanen is well worth a visit.

A farmer criticised that the canopy was on the wrong side of the building when he saw one of Fred Stauffer's landscapes. Pierre Stauffer told the audience at the opening of the exhibition that his father did not argue for long. He painted another picture for the neighbour that correctly reproduced everything: the low-pitched roof, the cows ... the farmer was satisfied. But Fred Stauffer did not include the painting in his catalogue raisonné.

Perhaps this shows that the artist had other ambitions. He was not concerned with being true to nature, with pure depiction. The truth he painted was an inner and artistic one. At the Munich Art Academy, he had trained himself in composition, and in Paris, he had seen the French avant-garde. So, he never painted on location. The easel stood indoors, for example in the anteroom in front of the living room in the family's Lauenen chalet. He would sketch outside, but he created the paintings in a combination of what he saw outside and an artistic vision that he created in front of his inner eye. Thus, although the landscapes show the Saanenland, they can move us beyond time and place in their beautiful balance of nature and house, mountain and green, sky and earth.

The exhibition at the Museum der Landschaft Saanen owes its existence to a generous donation: Fred Stauffer’s son Pierre leaves the estate of Fred Stauffer, for whom Lauenen was his domicile of choice, and the financial means to preserve it to the public. This was duly celebrated on Whit Saturday in a small circle in the presence of the two presidents of the municipality of Saanen and Lauenen, Pierre Stauffer's friends and the museum's faithful.

Chic cafés
Anyone who wants to see Fred Stauffer's landscapes can pay a visit to the retirement home in Lauenen, whose rooms are generously stocked with paintings. Stephan Jaggi, president of the museum association, reminded the audience in his speech that the Stauffer family had given the decisive impulse for its foundation.

The current exhibition shows a different side of the artist: colourful scenes from the Moser coffee house, making the Bern artists' meeting place look like a chic café in Montmartre. People waiting on the station platform against the light, a scene with artists, elegant ladies, their chins resting in their slender hands, in front of colourful wallpaper and potted plants that combine with the shadows to create ornamental forms.

For all the colourfulness of the pastels, the pictures often carry a slight melancholy: The elegance of the line takes the place of the gripping power of Bergfest bei Lauenen (Mountain Festival at Lauenen) from 1949, probably Stauffer's most famous picture, which hangs in the Federal Palace in Bern. (The sketches of this painting are at display in the museum's permanent exhibition).

The artist always stands somewhat on the outside, is a close observer, but looks at sophisticated urban life rather as if he didn't quite belong to it, as if it were taking place on a stage. Is that why he felt so at home in the Saanenland?

Based on AvS/Annina Zimmermann, Art Specialist of the City of Bern

The exhibition The Other Stauffer is open until 17 October 2021 from Thursday to Sunday, 2 to 5 pm.

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