BERN.- The Kunstmuseum Bern
is putting on a large retrospective of Albert Anker's manifold oeuvre to commemorate the centenary of this key Swiss artist's death. The exhibition will take up several themes representative for Anker's work and demonstrate how exceptional he was as a painter. Video works by Chantal Michel, a performance and media artist who lives in Bern, enhance the presentation.
A trigger for this exhibition was the immensely popular Anker show that was organized by the Kunstmuseum Bern in 2007-2008 for four Japanese Museums. The works on show comprise paintings, drawings, watercolors, and faiences. The exhibition is undoubtedly a highlight in the year of celebrations concerning the centenary of Anker's death.
Anker depicted the world with photographic precision. As a painter he witnessed the social changes of his times. Ins, a village in Seeland, was his hometown. It underwent extensive development in the 19th century. He actively participated in Ins community life throughout his life, even if he preferred, over a longer period of time, to live and work in Paris during the winter months. Very often he recorded unspectacular moments in the unencumbered intergenerational communal life in the village. Many of his paintings depict children attending school, on school excursions, or while doing their homework or at play. Anker was well-acquainted with the education system and for many years worked as secretary for the Ins school commission. As a result his paintings reflect the developments of the education system in Switzerland and communicate the new understanding of raising children, educating them, and learning through playing and games.
People and Rural Life
Sharing his day-to-day life with the people he portrayed, Anker showed great empathy for his sitters. Especially his portraits of children are unique in 19th-century art. He comprehended children as little personalities and independent of the roles dictated by their social class, age, and gender. Also his still lifes evidence the proximity of human presence in a variety of ways, for example, by traces of usage on the represented objects. Anker's images definitely win our credibility and appear somehow familiar. Truth and beauty are not contradictory in his eyes. His close contact to his fellow human beings makes his intimate and light-bathed realism still moving for viewers today.
A Contemporary Dream by Chantal Michel
Chantal Michel bridges the gap to contemporary times. The Bernese performance and media artist has taken up the challenge of finding an appropriate contemporary response to the old master of Swiss art history. Chantal Michel has long focused intensively on Anker. She comprehends the video installation she created especially for the Anker exhibition as a "contemporary dream within the world of Anker's imagery". The installation comprises six projections of forty different video sequences in total.