Hans Emmenegger (1866 – 1940)

25.06 – 31.10.2021

The Fondation de l’Hermitage is to stage a major retrospective of the Lucerne-based painter Hans Emmenegger (1866-1940), the first of its kind in French-speaking Switzerland. With around a hundred paintings, this exhibition will reveal the work of an artist who has remained largely unknown to the wider public, despite his strong commitment to the cultural community in German-speaking Switzerland. Emmenegger is one of the most important Swiss artists of his generation, a painter whose detailed observations and love of nature are reflected in strikingly bold and original landscapes and still lifes.

Emmenegger began his training at the school of applied arts in Lucerne (1883-1884), before moving to Paris and the Académie Julian, followed by the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme. The vibrant Paris art scene brought him friendships with Cuno Amiet and Giovanni Giacometti. Emmenegger spent the winter of 1885-1886 in Munich, where he met Max Buri, with whom he travelled to North Africa in 1891. In 1893 Emmenegger inherited his father’s estate in Emmen, near Lucerne, where he subsequently lived and worked until his death. In 1895-1896 he spent a second winter in Munich, where he worked on engravings with Albert Welti and began plein air painting with Bernhard Buttersack. He was also fascinated by the work of Arnold Böcklin and spent several periods in Tessin and in Italy in the years 1897-1903.

A unique artist
In the early 20th century Emmenegger shed Böcklin’s influence and developed his own artistic language, with recurrent themes of dark forest interiors, melting snow, shadows and reflections on water. His figurative style takes the viewer into tightly framed, sometimes horizonless spaces with an atmosphere at once strange and melancholic. The subtle use of plain colours and strong contrasts of light and shadow gives Emmeneger’s compositions a great sense of tension. In the 1910s he became fascinated by the depiction of movement and took inspiration from chronophotography to create paintings reminiscent of the experiments of the Futurist painters.

Activities in the art world
Emmenegger was president of the Lucerne section of the Swiss society of painters, sculptors and architects, and a member of the committee of the Société des beaux-arts in Lucerne. He was an informed art collector, owning works by artists such as Ferdinand Hodler, Cuno Amiet, Max Buri, Giovanni Giacometti and Albert Trachsel, and also had collections of photographs, minerals, fossils and stamps.

Dialogues with other artists / ECAL carte blanche
The staggering modernity of Emmenegger’s work is revealed through around a hundred paintings, in dialogue with works by his mentors, friends and contemporaries, including Cuno Amiet, Arnold Böcklin, Giovanni Giacometti, Ferdinand Hodler, Félix Vallotton and Robert Zünd. Scattered through the exhibition will be works by the contemporary artists Caroline Bachmann, Stefan Banz, Michel Grillet, Alois Lichtsteiner, Nicolas Party and Albrecht Schnider, who have been inspired by Emmenegger’s paintings.

Also on show in the rooms and garden of the Hermitage will be works created in response to the carte blanche given to ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne, enabling Emmenegger’s work to resonate with photographic art by the new generation.

Back in pictures


Hans Emmenegger (1866 – 1940)

Sous la direction de Sylvie Wuhrmann et Corinne Currat
Publié en coédition avec les Éditions Snoeck, Gand
232 pages, 24 × 29 cm, 170 illustrations
CHF 49.-



Hans Emmenegger (1866 – 1940)

Format mondial F4 (89,5 × 128 cm)
Œuvre : Hans Emmenegger, Intérieur de forêt (détail), 1933
Design graphique : Laurent Cocchi
CHF 20.-


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