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Balthasar Burkhard

1944 - 2010
Born in 1944 in Bern, Balthasar Burkhard does not define himself as an artist. “I am a photographer”, he explains quite simply. Burkhard discovers his calling at an early age thanks to his father, who lends him a camera, then encourages him to become a professional photographer. Following a period of training, he is hired by Kurt Blum, who will instil in Burkhard the importance of both precision in printing photo negatives and mastering gradations of tone.

Appointed the official photographer of Bern’s Kunsthalle, he works with the curator Harald Szeemann. Burkhard is a well-placed witness to the art scene of the 1960s and develops his eye under the influence of the protagonists of movements like Fluxus, pop art, minimalism and Arte Povera that he meets in Bern. Robert Frank’s photography also makes a great impact on him and he vows to find his own approach.

His first group show (Kunstmuseum, Lucerne) dates from 1970. Four years later, he settles in Chicago, where he teaches at the University of Illinois and mounts his first solo show. With his return to Switzerland in 1980, his photos begin to be exhibited and acquired by the major galleries and museums in his native country (Mamco, Geneva; Schaulager, Basel; Kunstmuseum, Thun; Kunsthaus, Zurich) and the rest of Europe (the Pompidou Centre and the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris; Huis Marseille, stichting voor fotografie, Amsterdam). Éloge de l’ombre (In Praise of Shadows), the first retrospective devoted to his work, was mounted in 1997 at the Musée Rath in Geneva.