Exhibitions: The figure – Max Gubler (1898 – 1973)

Max Gubler (1898-1973), swiss painter and at his time considered as the ‘only swiss genius’. Exhibition in Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (13 Mar 2015 – 02 Aug 2015)


What fascinated me most in the exhibition and the figurative paintings, mostly self-portraits and depicting of his wife, are his way of looking at the human figure, his mark makings, and his usage of expressive strokes with bold colours. Gubler was considered at the beginning in the 1930s as an expressive new realistic artist, some of his works afterwards are quite in the context of Edvard Munch. His works, especially is figurative works were constantly in search for the right depiction of a more traditional perception of the human figure into the 20th century. Towards the end his figures got more disintegrated with background marks mirroring marks not the figure. He worked intensively in series (up to 12 variations of one motif)

Overall, his approach  and his struggles in his paintings can be seen as a mirror of the crisis in the 20th century. Interestingly, his family and close friends were hiding Gubler’s last paintings (around 400) – till they were disclosed to the public just recently. Somehow they were afraid that those artworks would have a bad image on Gubler’s overall artistic fame. This a kind of sign how till today art history struggles with ‘art at the edge’ – but what was Vincent van Gogh?

Gubler was committed to psychiatric hospital since 1958 for treatment of his mental illness (depression, hallucinations). His last paintings are dated 1961.

=> Here I do find fascinating the marks of the rain, repetive diagonal stripes, quite apart from each other, looks rather like a curtain and with a perception of an overlayer on the image. Reminded me of my tutor’s comment on my recent works in series of making marks with a ruler and pencil.

Max Gubler - Self-portrait with black statue, 1952

Max Gubler – Self-portrait with black statue, 1952

=> Bold outlines, image split in a warmer yellow-white left half and a cooler blueish right half. Black used to emphasise, repetitive marks on the body and in the left background. Starting of disintegration of the figure with the background (color use)

  • Exhibition works of self-portraits:

Max Gubler


Max Gubler - series of self portraits

=> The series shows the evolution and development of the artist as well the development of the figurative painting in the 20th century (modern art).

=> Overall I was most fascinated by the approach of markings, usage of color, disintegration of the human figure, and the relationship positive and negative space. Some works reminded my of Edvard Munch (more mark making in an expressive painting) as well of Alberto Giacometti (disintegration).



Next exhibitions on figurative artworks I am planning to visit:

Marlene Dumas (b.1953) Foundation Beyeler, Basel (Switzerland),  31 May- 6 Sep 2015

Frank Auerbach (b.1931) Kunstmuseum Bonn (Germany), 4 June- 13 Sep 2015



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