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Camille Graeser

1892 - 1980
After apprenticing as a cabinetmaker at the Kunstgewerbeschule and studying at the Royal Academy of Stuttgart, Camille Graeser became an interior designer in Berlin before later settling in Stuttgart. A member of the Deutscher Werkbund, he exhibited at the Die Form ohne Ornament and Die Wohnung shows, which were mounted in 1924 and 1927 respectively. In this context of innovation and modernity, Graeser designed the interior of one of the flats of a Mies van der Rohe apartment building in Weissenhofsiedlung.

At the same time, he began composing pictures, initially in the Cubo-Futurist tradition. In 1922 he turned to a geometrically oriented nonfigurative painting that was deeply connected with his architectural practice in its stripped-down vocabulary and constructive visual research. Graeser left Germany in 1933 and settled in Zurich, where his painting was soon to take precedence over his architectural work. He joined the Allianz association in 1937 and thereafter was actively involved in the Swiss avant-garde.

Although his art was to remain faithful to a strict geometrical style, he was constantly renewing it, and it can be broken down into several succeeding periods. Whereas into the late 1930s a motif still distinctly appears on a uniform background, starting in 1945 Graeser was essentially concerned with questions of surface and proportion, reducing the canvas to a two-dimensional field that had to be structured according to a strictly orthogonal system, following a visual concept that had been developed after long and careful thought.

Initially focusing on a search for static balance, in the 1950s Graeser began to shift his modules, usually squares and their multiples, first by rotation around a horizontal axis, then by dislocation, translocation and permutation. Thus, he constantly exploited the possibilities of occupying the pictorial surface while remaining faithful to his founding principles, pure geometry, fitting balance, and the agreement of forms and colours. The creator of a demanding, ambitious constructive body of work, Camille Graeser was, with Max Bill, Verena Loewensberg and Richard Paul Lohse, the main representative of Zurich’s Concrete Art.